The Queen vows not to let the coronavirus outbreak stop her and is determined to to set an example by ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ as he pledges to attend the Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey on Monday
- Monarch, 93, will attend Commonwealth Day service in Westminster tomorrow
- Senior palace source said the sovereign was determined to set an example
- However, she may have to cancel upcoming garden parties if the virus spreads
The Queen has vowed to not let the coronavirus outbreak stop her from performing her duties – as Government officials discuss how best to protect senior Royals from the bug.
The Monarch, who is 93, will attend the Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey tomorrow with eight other members of the Royal Family, where they will mix with representatives from 54 Commonwealth countries. A senior Palace source said last night that the Queen was determined to set an example by ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ until there was ‘compelling advice to the contrary’.
However, if the virus spreads, Whitehall experts have suggested the Queen should cancel her garden parties, which start in May, when the epidemic is predicted to be near its peak.
The Queen pictured at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on March 3. She is making D-Day veteran Harry Billinge an MBE
The Queen pictured talking to MI5 officers during a visit to their headquarters on February 25
In such a scenario, the Queen would also be likely to operate with a reduced retinue of staff and to relocate to either Sandringham or Balmoral to limit the risk of infection.
As the number of coronavirus cases reached 206 in the UK last night, a rise of 43 since Friday:
- Heads of the major sporting bodies prepared for talks with Ministers tomorrow to discuss the feasibility of either cancelling major events or holding them behind closed doors;
- Ministers held discussions with leading supermarket chains to prioritise food deliveries to ‘hotspot’ infection areas;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced an upcoming emergency Bill will sanction video hearings in courts and give employment protection to the three-million-strong army of volunteers who currently help the NHS – all subject to a ‘sunset clause’ which ensures the laws automatically expire after two years;
- Boris Johnson prepared to chair an emergency meeting of the Government’s Cobra committee tomorrow to discuss the optimum time to change strategy from trying to contain the virus to delaying its transmission so the outbreak peaks in the summer months;
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that he ‘stands ready to give the NHS whatever it needs’ when he delivers his first Budget on Wednesday, as he also plans to support businesses that may face cashflow problems due to the outbreak;
- US Vice-President Mike Pence said that quarantined cruise ship The Grand Princess – which is carrying 3,500 people, including 140 Britons off the Californian coast – had been directed to an undisclosed ‘non-commercial port’ after 21 people on board tested positive for coronavirus;
- A leading microbiologist warned that Britain’s epidemic is expected to hit its peak at Easter, throwing school holiday plans for hundreds of thousands of families into chaos;
- Staff levels on the NHS’s non-emergency 111 line will be boosted by a fifth, after an additional 120,000 calls were received last week;
- The number of confirmed cases in the United States more than doubled in the space of 24 hours, leaping from 148 cases to 377 cases yesterday.
- A German scientist revealed that Covid-19 can survive on surfaces for far longer than previously thought – up to nine days on plastic and five days on glass, metal and wood.
- Pope Francis will deliver Sunday prayers by a live stream over the internet today to keep crowds away from Saint Peter’s Square as Italy battles the worst outbreak in Europe, with 233 deaths so far – 36 in a single day – and a dire warning that the country’s hospitals are on the brink of meltdown;
- More than 60 people were believed to have caught coronavirus after attending a funeral in northern Spain.
- There was optimism that China, where the disease started in December, has finally tamed its outbreak after an authoritarian crackdown reduced the number of new cases to just 102 yesterday – even though drug industry experts warned that if Chinese factories don’t resume operating at full capacity by the end of March it would lead to ‘major shortages’.
- An urgent rescue operation was launched in China after a hotel housing 70 quarantined coronavirus patients in Fujian province suddenly collapsed.
Last night, courtiers were adamant that the Queen and other senior Royals would continue to carry out their duties, including overseas tours such as Charles and Camilla’s planned trip to Bosnia, Cyprus and Jordan later this month.
They insisted that the Queen would follow Government advice about if and when she should self-isolate, while the Duke of Edinburgh, 98, will continue to live in Sandringham.
The Queen wore gloves during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on March 3 following heightened fears over the coronavirus. She is pictured with Butterflies star Wendy Craig as she is made a CBE
Her Majesty never usually wears gloves at the Palace events, shown right knighting Alastair Cook in February 2017 without her hands covered and left making Sir Archibald Tunnock a Knight Bachelor in November 2019
A congregation of 2,000 is expected at tomorrow’s service including the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
A source said: ‘It is thought that if the Queen or other senior members of the Royal Family were to self-isolate or change their plans it might spark panic in the general population.’
Another source said: ‘The Queen didn’t change her schedule during the swine flu outbreak and has never changed her schedule after terrorist attacks. It’s business as usual.’
Courtiers are in constant contact with the Government about the risk levels, and the Queen was seen wearing long gloves at an investiture at Buckingham Palace last week. The Palace has also given out hand sanitiser to staff.
Environment Secretary George Eustice will meet retailers tomorrow to discuss identifying Covid-19 ‘hotspots’ where supplies may be stockpiled. They will also discuss support for vulnerable groups who may be suffering in isolation.
The risk of dying from the virus rises steeply with age: while the overall death rate is 2.3 per cent, it rises to 14.8 per cent among the over-80s.
There are more than 200 coronavirus cases reported in the UK so far and two deaths
Some experts fear that the death rate among the over-90s could be as high as 50 per cent, with the toll particularly high for care home residents.
The family of the second person to have died of coronavirus in the UK paid tribute yesterday to a ‘truly loving and wonderful’ husband, dad, grandad and great-grandad.
In a statement, they said their 83-year-old relative ‘would go to any length to support and protect his family’. They also said they could not yet begin making funeral arrangements because they are being kept in isolation themselves.
Mr Hancock said: ‘‘Responding to coronavirus is a massive national effort and I’m working to ensure we have a proportionate emergency bill, with the right measures to deal with the impacts of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak.
‘The NHS is working 24/7 to fight this virus. Calls to 111 have increased by more than a third and we have already put in place 500 extra staff to help with this increase.’
Buckingham Palace said: ‘We are following current Government advice. We would not speculate on what that advice might be in the future’.
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