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Queen Elizabeth II again cancels royal pre-Christmas lunch due to COVID-19

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Queen Elizabeth II again cancels royal pre-Christmas lunch due to COVID-19
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is seen in Ascot, Britain, on June 19. The canceled lunch would have been the first time many in the royal family had gathered since Prince Philip's death in April. File Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- For the second year in a row, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has canceled a traditional pre-Christmas royal lunch over concerns about rising COVID-19 cases -- this time fueled by worries for the Omicron variant, news reports said Thursday.

The queen typically hosts dozens of members of Britain's royal family for the lunch, including Prince Charles and his wife Camilla. She has decided, however, that doing so this year would be irresponsible.

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The queen's decision was reported by Sky News and Britain's ITV.

Last year's lunch was also called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. This Christmas will be the first since the death of the queen's husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, who died in April at age 99.

The gathering would have been the first time many in the royal family had gathered since Philip's death.

Traditionally, after the pre-Christmas lunch, the royal family joins the queen at Sandringham House on Christmas Eve and visits the St. Mary Magdalene church on Christmas Day.

The 95-year-old queen has also canceled other events in recent weeks due to concerns about her health.

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The Omicron coronavirus variant was first detected in South Africa and has spread worldwide since October. Most experts predict that it will quickly become to most dominant strain of COVID-19. So far, most scientists have said that the mutation spreads quicker and seems to be more resistant to vaccines, but also may cause less severe illness.

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