Queen's funeral: closures and cancellations on Monday spark complaints

Cancer sufferer's husband describes her cancelled appointment as 'an obscenity in the name of the monarchy'

The cortege carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II makes its way to from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. Bloomberg
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Closures and cancellations on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral have sparked a backlash across the UK, with some operations and cancer treatments among the services being postponed.

Government guidance left the decision up to individual businesses and organisations whether to shut or reschedule their operations and appointments on Monday, which is a bank holiday.

But many companies have opted to close as a mark of respect for the UK’s longest-serving monarch.

Some National Health Service trusts have said appointments will still go ahead, while others say only urgent and emergency services will continue.

The husband of a cancer sufferer who has been waiting for six months for an appointment tweeted to say she has been told it would not be going ahead on Monday.

“Wife's breast cancer appointment cancelled Monday, which means all breast cancer appointments are cancelled on Monday. She has a new one in a month,” wrote Matt.

“I'm sure she'll be fine, but that's a wait that will almost certainly cost lives. This is an obscenity, in the name of the monarchy.”

The tweet has attracted more than 154,000 likes.

His wife was just one of many patients told their NHS appointments they had waited months to secure had been suddenly cancelled.

“For patients who may have been waiting up to two years for elective surgery or appointments — if they are then cancelled on the 19th, this will be incredibly distressing,” Ellen Welch, representative of doctors' lobby DAUK, said.

Britain's state-run NHS is already facing its worst ever staffing crisis and has more than 6 million people on waiting lists for hospital treatment — a record high.

Earlier this week, supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Aldi were among the latest of a string of businesses to confirm they are shutting for the day as a mark of respect for the queen. Primark, John Lewis and Waitrose stores will also close.

Andrew Murphy, chief operating officer of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We will be closing our stores on the day of her funeral as a mark of respect, and because we believe this is the right thing to do for our partners and customers.”

There may be “a very limited number of Waitrose stores” near to the route of the funeral procession which remain open to serve members of the public nearby, said the statement. They will, however, be closed during the funeral itself.

People queue to visit the coffin of Queen Elizabeth.  Reuters

Marks & Spencer also plans to open only a few shops situated close to the funeral and burial venues in and around London.

And fast-food giant McDonald's confirmed all UK branches of its restaurants will be closed until after the funeral ends.

Several food banks — a lifeline for poorer households — have also announced closures. And concerns have been raised about the impact of school and nursery closures on working parents.

But some companies have been forced to backtrack.

Centre Parcs had to renege on its plans to evict guests at 10am local time on Monday, banning them from returning until Tuesday, “as a mark of respect and to allow as many … colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment”.

Customer complaints forced the company into a partial about-turn, allowing guests already at the parks to stay — but those not due to start their holidays until Monday will still have to delay their arrival by a day.

“We recognise that leaving the village for one night and returning is extremely inconvenient,” the company said in a message to customers.

“On reflection and having listened, we have made the decision to allow guests on longer duration breaks to remain.”

Other events that were cancelled during the mourning period include London Fashion Week shows, Premier League football matches and several other sporting fixtures.

Some businesses have, however, confirmed they are remaining open, with the UK’s biggest pub group even planning to show the funeral on television.

Heathrow airport, which paused flights during a procession of the queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, said it anticipates more disruption to its schedule during the funeral.

“We anticipate further changes to the Heathrow operation … when Her Majesty's funeral is due to take place,” the airport said.

Studies have shown bank holidays usually benefit the economy due to the sheer number of people who are off work and out spending. But considering the widespread closures on Monday, that is unlikely on this occasion.

In fact, some economists are predicting the time off may help tip the economy into recession.

Andrew Sentance, an economist and former member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, said the process of national mourning combined with the bank holiday could result in “some quite significant impact on short-term economic activity”.

“We saw a similar effect with the death of Princess Diana,'” he said.

Mourners travelling to London by train for the queen’s funeral are being encouraged to stay for lunch to avoid overcrowding on the rail and tube networks.

The Greater London Authority, which oversees the governance of the capital, has reportedly urged businesses to keep their doors open for the event.

The authority has privately advised "that it would be helpful" if hospitality businesses could be ready to open their doors to the guests arriving for the funeral.

Updated: September 15, 2022, 3:08 PM
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