Queen meets with Sultan of Oman in Windsor

Keep Ma’am and carry on! Queen shakes hands with Sultan of Oman in Windsor as she keeps on with her official duties despite rising Omicron cases in UK

  • The Queen welcomed the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq al Said, and his wife at Windsor Castle today
  • Her Majesty, 95, is carrying out only light duties, including virtual and the occasional in-person audiences
  • Haitham bin Tariq came to power after death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos – Arab world’s longest-serving ruler

The Queen made a rare public appearance today in order to welcome the Sultan of Oman and his wife in person at Windsor Castle.

Her Majesty, 95, wearing a pale blue dress, her trademark pearls and a sapphire brooch, was pictured smiling as she shook hands with Haitham bin Tariq al Said and greeted him at her Berkshire castle.    

The Middle Eastern ruler was joined by his wife, Her Highness The Honourable Lady Sayyida Ahad Bint Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Busaidiyah during the visit. 

The Queen is still carrying out only light duties, including virtual and the occasional in-person audiences, after being ordered to rest by royal doctors and spending a night in hospital to undergo tests on October 20. 

Her face-to-face meeting with the Omani ruler is a demonstration of the importance the UK places on its relationship with the Gulf state. 

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, a former culture and heritage minister who studied at Oxford, came to power after the death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos – the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler – last year. 

His visit comes as the UK today announced its highest ever daily coronavirus case number as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant continues to rise.

The Queen made a rare public appearance today in order to welcome the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq al Said, at Windsor Castle

Her Majesty, 95, was pictured smiling as met with the Sultan of Oman and his wife, Her Highness The Honourable Lady Sayyida Ahad Bint Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Busaidiyah

The monarch is still carrying out only light duties, including virtual and the occasional in-person audiences, after being ordered to rest by royal doctors

A record 78,610 people tested positive in the past 24 hours, eclipsing the previous highest count by more than 10,000 — when 68,053 were recorded on January 8 at the peak of the second wave.

Officially, only a third of today’s cases were attributed to Omicron but Government modelling predicts 400,000 people are catching the mutant virus every day, with the strain spreading faster than testing can keep up.      

Meanwhile, the Queen is still to make a final decision on whether to hold her traditional pre-Christmas family party next week.

Plans are fully in place for the festive lunch the monarch hosts each year for her extended family, and preparations are under way.

But it is understood the Queen is still considering whether the get-together should happen amid rising Covid cases and the surge in the Omicron variant.

The Queen is due to hold the lunch next Tuesday at Windsor, where she has been staying for most of the pandemic, The Sun reports.

Last year’s gathering was unable to take place due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Most years, the Queen invites her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to join her at Buckingham Palace before she departs for her annual Christmas stay at Sandringham. 

The pre-Christmas celebration gives the head of state a chance to catch up with relatives who are unable to travel to Norfolk for Christmas Day.

The wider family is also usually invited, including the Queen’s cousins – the Gloucesters, the Duke of Kent and the Michaels of Kent. 

The Queen’s face-to-face meeting with the Omani ruler is a demonstration of the importance the UK places on its relationship with the Gulf state

Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Oman’s former culture minister, came to power after the death of his cousin Sultan Qaboos 

The Queen walks towards her plane with the Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, before she departs Muscat Airport for home in 2010

However the decision over whether a Christmas gathering will take place this year comes as senior SAGE scientists, public health officials and NHS leaders warned today warned that the NHS could be overwhelmed by January if current projections are to be believed, piling pressure on No10 to hit the panic button on even tougher Covid curbs.

The UK Health Security Agency today announced another 4,671 lab-confirmed Omicron cases, bringing the official count to 10,017. This number is much lower than the real toll because only a small number of positive tests are analysed for variants.

Senior ministers from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met at a Cobra meeting this afternoon to plan for a ‘UK-wide response’ to Omicron. The PM’s spokesman said today: ‘We’ve had success throughout in sharing information and approaches, and we’ll continue to do that.’

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday re-introduced social distancing in pubs, restaurants and shops, and advised Scots to cut down on indoor mixing to just three households. 

The Welsh Government has also warned it could announce some further Covid restrictions for the Christmas period due to the spread of the Omicron variant. 

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted this Christmas will be a ‘good deal happier than last’ and said England’s current batch of restrictions — working from home guidance, vaccine passports for large venues and masks on public transport and in shops — were ‘sensible’ and ‘proportionate’.

Meanwhile Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, warned Omicron posed the ‘biggest threat’ yet and could put the NHS in ‘serious peril’.  

She told MPs: ‘I am sure for example that the numbers that we see on data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the rate of growth that we have seen in cases for previous variants.

‘The real potential risk here and I would underline that because we are still learning a lot about the variant is in relation to its severity, clinical severity, and therefore whether those cases turn into severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths.

‘We are still at too early a stage for that, in fact the world probably is still at too early a stage to be clear.

‘The difficulty is that the growth of this virus has a doubling time, doubling days, at the moment which is shortening, i.e. it is doubling faster, growing faster and in most regions in the UK it is now under two days.

‘When it started we were estimating about four or five. So if you think of that growth rate right across the UK and we are starting to see it and to feel it now in London particularly but yesterday particularly around Manchester and we are very sure there are levels growing across most communities in the UK now, although there is quite a lot of regional variation still.’      

Top SAGE modeller Professor Graham Medley also admitted he feared the super-strain could trigger a ‘very large’ wave of hospitalisations because it is so transmissible, while vaccine adviser Professor Adam Finn called for action to halt the ‘alarming’ spread of the virus. 

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