News Coronavirus Queen Elizabeth postpones more planned audiences as England drops all restrictions
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Queen Elizabeth postpones more planned audiences as England drops all restrictions

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The Queen has postponed two more virtual audiences in the wake of her COVID diagnosis, Buckingham Palace says.

The 95-year-old, who tested positive for the virus on Sunday, previously cancelled virtual engagements on Tuesday because she was not feeling well enough, but she did have her telephone audience with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

She was due to hold two virtual audiences on Thursday, but these are no longer taking place.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “The two virtual audiences that had previously been scheduled to take place today will now be rescheduled for a later date.

“Her Majesty is continuing with light duties. No other engagements are scheduled for this week.”

Concerns for the nation’s longest reigning sovereign have been heightened given her age, frailer appearance of late and recent health scare.

The Queen has a run of high-profile engagements coming up.

She is set to host the Diplomatic Reception on March 2, where she will meet hundreds of members of the Diplomatic Corps at Windsor.

The Queen is also due to attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14, and then the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service, also at the Abbey, on March 29.

Meanwhile, all government-mandated coronavirus restrictions in England have been lifted, including the legal requirement for people who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate at home.

Officials say that those who tested positive will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days.

But from Thursday they are not legally obliged to do so, and those on lower incomes will no longer get extra financial support to make up for a loss of income due to isolation.

The routine tracing of infected people’s contacts has also been scrapped.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out his Conservative government’s strategy for “living with COVID” in the longer term.

He said Britain is moving “from legal restrictions to personal responsibility,” and that the end of all domestic legal measures marked the end of two of the darkest years in the country’s peacetime history.

NSW and Victoria ease mask rules

Masks will no longer be required in most settings. Photo: Getty

In Australia, masks are no longer required in NSW shops, but will remain compulsory in key areas including public transport and hospitals, in a move welcomed by those fighting to revive the state’s city centres.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the government was working on a plan to encourage workers back into offices, and with the City of Sydney on initiatives to “breathe life back into the city”.

Ehssan Veiszadeh, Deputy CEO of the Committee for Sydney, said “we think the easing of mask mandates will be a gamechanger for the CBD”.

“With Friday’s easing of the mask mandate, we think people will start to increase their days in the office,” he said.

“That’s what our CBDs desperately need and we strongly welcome it.”

The highly anticipated easing of restrictions will be followed up next week with high school students and staff no longer required to wear masks from Monday.

Parents will be allowed back on school campuses, year groups will be able to mix freely and assemblies and school camps return.

Staff and students will no longer be required to undertake twice-weekly rapid antigen tests, unless they have symptoms.

Masks will still be required to visit prisons, at indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people, at airports and on planes, as well as at aged and disability care facilities.

Victoria’s COVID-19 mask mandate will be eased at midnight, and in most places people will no longer be required to wear them.

The mask mandate has been in place in some form since July 2020, but will soon only be required in limited situations, such as on public transport, taxis, and in airports and hospitals.

Some groups of workers will also have to keep wearing masks, including hospitality and retail workers, people who work in primary schools and early childhood centres, and justice and correctional facility staff.

High school students will also be allowed to ditch their masks, but primary school students in grades three to six will still have to wear them for now.

Also from midnight Friday, people are no longer being told to work from home.

The state’s remaining restrictions on elective surgery will soon lift on Monday, with both public and private hospitals able to resume all surgery.

-AAP