The Queen has canceled her public events for the next two months and will be leaving London a week earlier than planned due to the coronavirus outbreak, Buckingham Palace said Tuesday.
In a statement, the palace said the changes in the 93-year-old monarch's schedule were made "as a sensible precaution and for practical reasons in the current circumstances."
The move comes a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said UK residents should stop "nonessential contact" with others and avoid public spaces to combat the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The UK government has advised those most at risk — a group that automatically includes everyone over the age of 70 — to adhere to strict social distancing measures and "significantly limit" face-to-face interactions with friends and family for the next few weeks.
As of Tuesday, 1,960 people in the UK have contracted the coronavirus. Nearly 25% of these cases are in London, where the Queen is currently in residence. Since the outbreak began in the UK, 55 people have died.
The Queen will move from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle on Thursday. Although she was already scheduled to be in Windsor for Easter, per the statement, it's "likely" that she will stay there for longer than planned.
In addition, while the Queen will attend previously scheduled private meetings with the prime minister and two other VIPs at Buckingham Palace over the next two days, all future audiences with the monarch "will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, in line with the appropriate advice."
A number of the Queen's upcoming public events have also been canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, per the palace. The annual Maundy Service on Holy Thursday — a royal tradition dating back to 600 AD — will not take place. The Queen hasn't been absent from one of these services since 1970 (she was on tour in New Zealand) and has only missed four in her entire 68-year reign.
The Queen also called off the three garden parties that had been scheduled at various dates in May at Buckingham Palace. This year's guests will be invited to attend one of her 2021 garden parties.
In Tuesday's statement, the palace said that decisions about major royal events scheduled for May and beyond "will be made in due course, in consultation with [the] government."
One of the most significant events on the royal calendar is the state visit of the new emperor and empress of Japan, which, if it actually happens, would be the imperial couple's first official overseas visit since they took the throne last year. When the state visit was announced in January, the dates were given as "Spring 2020" and further details have not yet been released.
The palace said that it had not yet made a decision about one of the biggest annual royal events, Trooping the Colour, which is currently scheduled for June 13, or the number of public events planned in celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE Day (May 8).
The Queen is not the only member of the royal family whose schedule has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday, Prince Charles, 71, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, 72, canceled a royal tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, and Jordan that was scheduled to begin Tuesday.