As Britain reaches a national standoff ahead of Monday’s funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, it grapples with an uncomfortable conundrum: what should and what shouldn’t be canceled out of respect for the monarch?
Sporting fixtures and cultural events were almost entirely suspended on Monday, the day of the UK’s first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965. Museums, banks, businesses, shops and schools will also close this which is now a public holiday.
But while these closures were mostly anticipated after the demise of a monarch whose reign spanned seven decades, others have caused more serious consequences – leaving some Britons mystified and angry.
Non-emergency hospital appointments across the country have been pushed back due to a shortage of staff, adding to an already unprecedented waiting list for healthcare in Britain. Holidaymakers have had their accommodation plans torn up, travelers are being warned that flights will be halted to avoid noise over London, and funerals and food banks are being prepared for disruption.
“It’s sad the queen is gone, but letting someone get worse isn’t helpful,” said photographer Dan Lewsey, who told CNN of his mother’s health after a diagnosis was postponed. of cancer by a hospital in Shropshire, in the west of England. “Normal life should be able to continue to some extent.”
The confusion reflects a country that has struggled to find the best way to honor the Queen. Despite decades of planning for Elizabeth II’s death, the government has refused to issue firm guidelines on what should and should not be done during the national mourning period, leaving many decisions to providers.
This has resulted in very different approaches to businesses and services. Britons were urged not to cycle or go without weather updates; Some, like a supermarket’s decision to reduce the sound of its checkout beep, have been ridiculed online. But others left people worrying about essential provisions.
“Closing essential services like food banks, hospital appointments and funeral services does no honor to the Queen. It is a mark of disrespect to the British public,” said Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, political activist and author of “This Is Why I Resist.”
The suspension of some medical treatments has caused widespread concern. “It is of course very sad that the Queen has passed away and a funeral is important, but we are asking people to forego potentially life-saving medical treatment for the aristocracy,” Marcia Allison, 39, told PA Media after being told learned that his 69-year-old father had had a dentist appointment canceled on Monday.
“It is heinous to ask people like him to lose their teeth for an unelected head of state in the 21st century. It’s not democratic,” she told the news agency.
Public holidays affect staffing across the country and have prevented many hospitals from filling appointments. The Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in South East Wales has apologized for the ‘inevitable disruption’, telling patients it is ‘postponing all scheduled appointments and clinics’ for Monday.
It comes at a particularly difficult time for patients. Britain’s National Health Service operated under great 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 fears the queue could be further swollen by Monday’s cancellations.
The BMA’s arm to represent junior doctors also expressed anger that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) delayed exams on Monday. “Junior doctors spend months revising for these exams. Delays take a heavy mental toll and potentially affect training progress,” said the BMA said.
An NHS spokesperson said that “as with any public holiday, NHS staff will endeavor to ensure that emergency and emergency services, including urgent dental and GP appointments , are available – and patients will be contacted by their local trusts, if necessary, regarding their existing appointment. »
But while missed hospital appointments are usually the result of sudden staff shortages, many businesses also took the decision to cancel regular services on Monday, often leaving customers in the dark.
Center Parcs, a company that operates several resorts across the UK, drew nationwide criticism on Wednesday after announcing plans to close on Monday, leaving guests without accommodation.
The company has since canceled its plan to remove customers from sites for a day, but still will not allow customers to arrive and check into their accommodations on Monday, meaning some have been forced at short notice to find other places to stay.
“It came out of nowhere,” said David Grierson, 33, who intended to drive through England this weekend and arrive at Center Parcs in Cumbria on Monday. “We now need to find additional accommodation…we are seeing over £200 ($230) per night (and) around the Center Parcs area availability is very low.
“It’s a bit out of proportion, what they did,” Grierson told CNN. “I would totally understand if they made any changes that day, but locking out people who were already on the road blew us away.”
Center Parcs told CNN, “We believe it was the right to do something and this decision was made as a mark of respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment.” A company spokesperson added that messages sent from the company’s social media account, notify guests they must “stay in their dressing rooms” on Monday was “a mistake”.
“Guests are of course allowed to leave their boxes,” the spokesperson said.
In the meantime, public places have grappled with the question of how, and how not to, honor the monarch. Images and tributes to the Queen are virtually impossible to avoid in British cities; bus stops, train stations, shop windows and billboards bear his face. During her lifetime, the Queen probably became the most recognizable woman to ever live, but she was even more visible in death.
Some tributes, however, felt more natural than others. Guinea Pig Awareness Week has been postponed to avoid any conflict with the monarch’s funeral. A image of the late Queen surrounded by boxes of baked beans in a British supermarket has drawn mild ridicule online. Another supermarket chain, Morrisons, has confirmed to CNN that it has reduced the volume of “beeps” emitted when an item is scanned at checkout, out of respect for the late Elizabeth II.
Many companies and groups join Center Parcs to deliver disconcerting advice. British Cycling has apologized after ‘strongly’ advising people not to cycle during state funerals; he has now erased these tips from his websites, admitting “we were wrong on this one.”
The government has informed companies that “there is no obligation for organizations to suspend their activities 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, particularly on the day of the state funeral.
Confusion has also surrounded other funerals due to take place across the country on the day the Queen is laid to rest. “If a chosen crematorium or cemetery has made the decision to close, for whatever reason, funeral directors are working with families to find an alternate date, or location, that is convenient for them,” the Association said. National Funeral Home (NAFD). in a report.
“The NAFD and other professional bodies in the funeral industry have guided their members to ensure that these decisions are guided by the needs and wishes of bereaved families,” the group said. He added that the reduction in transport links on public holidays could prevent guests from getting to the funeral.
Flights will also be affected; Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s biggest transport hubs, said it would cancel some flights on Monday to reduce noise pollution over London on the day of the funeral. The airport had previously halted flights for a two-hour period Wednesday to “ensure silence” during a solemn procession of the Queen’s coffin.
“Most court and tribunal hearings will not take place” on Monday, the country’s courts and tribunals service said. Test drives will not take place. And food banks have been forced to reshuffle their staff in order to stay open; The food bank in Wimbledon, south-west London, first announced it would close but later clarified it would be able to run 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 police event” London’s Metropolitan Police have ever undertaken, Deputy Deputy Commissioner of Police Stuart Cundy told a news conference on Friday.
But that has left companies not involved in the event on edge, as they balance their services and staff with the momentous nature of the Queen’s death.
“It’s a moment of great national importance, whatever your views on the monarchy,” Grierson said, reflecting on the disruption to his holiday and the cancellations seen across the UK in general.
“(But) a lot of businesses may not have government advice on what to do – so they just try to find it as they come.”