As Britain comes to a nationwide standstill ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday, it faces an uncomfortable conundrum: what should and shouldn’t be canceled out of respect for the monarch?
Sporting and cultural events were almost completely suspended on Monday, the day of the first UK state funeral since Winston Churchill’s death in 1965. Museums, banks, businesses, shops and schools will also close in what is now a bank holiday.
But while those closures were mostly anticipated after the demise of a monarch whose reign lasted seven decades, others have caused more dire consequences, leaving some Britons bewildered and angry.
Non-urgent hospital appointments across the country have been delayed due to staff shortages, adding to an unprecedented waiting list for healthcare in Britain. Tourists have seen their accommodation plans shattered, travelers are being warned that flights will be cut short to avoid noise over London, and funerals and food banks are bracing for riots.
“It’s sad that the Queen is gone, but potentially letting someone get worse doesn’t help,” said photographer Dan Lewsey, who told CNN of his mother’s checkup after a hospital in Shropshire, west of England, postponed a cancer diagnosis. “Normal life should be able to continue to a certain extent.”
The confusion reflects a country that has struggled with how best to honor the Queen. Despite decades of planning for Elizabeth II’s passing, the government has refused to issue firm guidance on what should and should not continue during the period of national mourning, leaving many decisions up to providers.
That has resulted in very different approaches to businesses and services. Britons have been told not to cycle or go without weather updates; Some, like a supermarket’s decision to reduce the noise of the checkout beeping, have been ridiculed online. But others have left people worried about essential supplies.
“The closure of essential services such as food banks, scheduled hospital appointments and funeral services does not respect the Queen. It is a sign of disrespect to the British public,” said Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a political activist and author of “This Is Why I Resist.”
The suspension of some medical treatments caused widespread concern. “Of course it is very sad that the Queen died, and a funeral is important, but we ask people to forego medical treatment that could save the lives of the aristocracy,” Marcia Allison, 39, told PA Media after learning that her 69-year-old father had seen her cancel a dentist appointment on Monday.
“It is abhorrent to ask people like him to lose their teeth for an unelected head of state in the 21st century. This is not democratic,” he told the news agency.
Bank holidays affect staff across the country and have left many hospitals unable to keep their appointments. The Board of Health at Aneurin Bevan University in south-east Wales has apologized for the “unavoidable disruption” and told patients it will “postpone all planned appointments and clinics” to Monday.
It comes at a particularly difficult time for patients. Britain’s National Health Service has been operating under heavy pressure; A record 6.8 million people are waiting for treatment, according to the latest figures from the British Medical Association (BMA), and there are concerns the queue could grow even higher due to Monday’s cancellations.
The BMA’s arm for representing young doctors also expressed anger that the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (RCOG) delayed the exams on Monday. “Junior doctors spend months dedicated to reviewing for these exams. Delays cause a significant mental toll, as well as potentially impacting training progression,” said the BMA said.
An NHS spokesman said that “as with any bank holiday, NHS staff will work to ensure urgent and emergency services, including urgent doctor and dental appointments, are available, and local trusts will communicate with patients, if necessary, regarding their existing. equipment.”
But while missed hospital appointments are often the result of sudden staffing shortages, numerous businesses have also made the decision to cancel their regular services on Monday, often leaving customers in the dark.
Center Parcs, a company that operates several resorts in the UK, drew criticism across the country on Wednesday after it announced plans to close on Monday, leaving guests without accommodation.
The company has since reversed its plan to remove guests from sites for a day, but will still not allow customers to arrive and check into their accommodation on Monday, meaning some have been forced to scout places. alternatives to stay.
“It just came out of nowhere,” said David Grierson, 33, who had plans to tour England this weekend and arrive at Center Parcs in Cumbria on Monday. “Now we need to find some extra accommodation… we’re looking at over £200 ($230) a night (and) around the Center Parcs area, availability is very low.
“It’s a little disproportionate what they’ve done,” Grierson told CNN. “I would totally understand if they made some changes that day, but shutting people out once they were already on the road has left us stunned.”
Center Parcs told CNN, “We believe this was the right thing to do and this decision was made out of respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be a part of this historic moment.” A company spokesperson added that messages sent from the company’s social media account, warning to guests they must “remain in their lodges” on Monday was “a mistake”.
“Of course, guests can leave their accommodation,” the spokesman clarified.
Meanwhile, public places have been grappling with the question of how and how not to honor the monarch. Images and tributes to the Queen are practically impossible to avoid in British cities; bus stops, train stations, shop windows and billboards bear her face. During her lifetime, the Queen became probably the most recognizable woman who ever lived; however, she has been even more visible in death.
Some tributes, however, have seemed more natural to me than others. Guinea Pig Awareness Week has been postponed to avoid it coinciding with the monarch’s funeral. A image of the late Queen surrounded by tins of baked beans in a British supermarket drew mild derision online. Another supermarket chain, Morrisons, confirmed to CNN that it had reduced the volume of the “beeps” that are emitted when an item is scanned at the checkout, out of respect for the late Elizabeth II.
Numerous companies and groups have joined Center Parcs in issuing perplexing advice. British Cycling has apologized after “strongly” recommending that people not ride a bike during the state funeral; has now removed that advice from their websites, admitting “We were wrong about this.”
The government has warned companies that “there is no obligation for organizations to suspend their business during the period of National Mourning. Depending on the nature and location of their business and the tone of planned events, some businesses may consider closing or postponing events, especially on the day of the state funeral.”
Confusion has also surrounded the other funerals that will take place across the country on the day the Queen rests. “If a chosen crematorium or cemetery has made the decision to close, for whatever reason, funeral directors are working with families to find another date or location they are happy with,” the National Funeral Directors Association said. NAFD). in a sentence.
“NAFD and other trade bodies in the funeral industry have guided their members that these decisions should be guided by the needs and wishes of bereaved families,” the group said. He added that reduced transport connections on the bank holiday could prevent guests from reaching funerals.
Flights will also be affected; Heathrow airport, one of the world’s biggest transport hubs, said it will cancel some flights on Monday to reduce noise pollution in London on the day of the funeral. The airport previously interrupted flights from a period of two hours on Wednesday to “ensure silence” during a ceremonial procession of the Queen’s coffin.
“Most court and tribunal hearings will not take place” on Monday, the country’s court and tribunal service said. driving tests will not take place. And food banks have been forced to change staff to stay open; The Wimbledon food bank in south-west London initially said it would close but later clarified. I would be able to run on Monday thanks to the “overwhelming support” of last-minute volunteers.
Monday’s funeral will be watched by millions of Britons. It will be the “largest single policing event” the London Metropolitan Police has ever conducted, the force’s deputy deputy commissioner, Stuart Cundy, said during a news conference on Friday.
But it has left companies not participating in the event with a loose end as they balance their services and staff with the momentous nature of the Queen’s death.
“It’s a time of great national importance, whatever your views on the monarchy,” Grierson said, reflecting on his holiday being cut short and cancellations across the UK in general.
“(But) a lot of companies may not have guidance from the government on what to do, so they’re just trying to find it as they go along.”