March 20, 2020 / 11:04 AM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-Changing of Guard halted at UK palaces because of coronavirus

(Adds details)

LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - The traditional “Changing of the Guard” ceremonies at Queen Elizabeth’s palaces in London and Windsor Castle which usually attract crowds of tourists have been postponed until further notice, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.

The decision comes after the government advised Britons to avoid any mass gatherings to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

The famous ceremony sees The Queen’s Guard handing over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace to the New Guard, usually involving soldiers in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats parading with an army band through central London.

On Friday, the ceremony was due to involve the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards accompanied by the band of the Irish Guards 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Corps of Drums.

A similar ceremony also takes place at Windsor Castle, the queen’s home to the west of London, where the 93-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 98, are currently residing amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a message to the nation on Thursday, the queen said the royal family would play its part as Britain battled the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge,” she said. “You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”

The Tower of London also announced on Thursday it would be closing because of the virus.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton

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