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UK: Queen cancels birthday celebrations due to COVID-19

LONDON 

Queen Elizabeth II will hold no special celebrations for her birthday because of the coronavirus outbreak, local media reported Saturday.

Britain’s monarch, who will turn 94 later this month, asked that traditional gun salutes fired as part of the ceremony not take place as she felt it would not be appropriate given the circumstances.

At midday every year, gun salutes firing blank rounds take place across Britain: a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Parkvand and a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London.

She also asked that the national flag not be raised above government buildings if it creates problems.

It was the first time the queen has made the request in her 68-year reign.

The queen has two birthdays: her birthday April 21, 1926, when the ceremonial gun salutes take place, but an official public birthday is celebrated on the second Saturday of June, in keeping with a 260-year-old tradition when the famous Trooping of the Colour parade takes place.

The parade involves more than 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians with the Royal Air Force performing an aerial display above Buckingham Palace.

The Trooping of the Colour has also been canceled.

On April 5, the queen gave a special address to the nation -- only the fifth in her reign -- telling the country and the Commonwealth that “by keeping apart we keep other safe.”

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” she said. “If we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”

“We will meet again,” the queen said.

The Queen’s son and heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales, tested positive for coronavirus last month but recovered.

On Saturday, the British Department of Health reported the U.K.-wide death toll from the virus was 15,464.

After originating in China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions across. Europe and the U.S. are currently the worst-hit regions.

The pandemic has killed more than 158,600, with total infections exceeding 2.3 million, while greater than 590,600 have recovered according to figures compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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