LONDON — It began with soccer, Britain’s beloved national sport. Then, flights into London’s Heathrow Airport were canceled out of respect for Queen Elizabeth II, drawing weary sighs from critics.
By the time of the late monarch’s funeral Monday, the U.K. will have come to a near-standstill, with most businesses shuttered and thousands of events canceled across the country.
But for some relying on Britain’s cherished National Health Service — already creaking with long delays — or other services like food banks, the cancelations seemed like too high a price to pay in a country grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.
“When I was called and told all appointments that day are cancelled, I got off the phone and cried,” Dan O’Brien, who is eight months pregnant, told NBC News via Twitter on Thursday.
O’Brien, 23, said she had waited three weeks to get an appointment at a specialized maternity unit because she has Type 1 diabetes and her pregnancy is considered high risk. But this week she was told her Monday appointment had been canceled because of the national holiday declared for the funeral.
“I only have six to seven weeks until I have my baby, so I feel like I’m running out of time to get the help I need before it becomes too much,” said the publishing executive from Chelmsford, a small town around 40 miles northeast of London.
O’Brien added she was told she should be seen by a doctor next week, but that could also be delayed due to a clash in appointments.
Many people also took to social media to complain about canceled operations and medical appointments. One of them was Katie Brodie, who wrote on Twitter: “I’m a chemotherapy patient and had a Covid booster booked for 19th carefully timed round my treatment,” she wrote. “Now cancelled and can’t rebook for weeks. Just hope I stay safe!”
A spokesperson for NHS England told NBC News that on the day of the funeral staff will work to ensure that “urgent and emergency services,” including urgent dental and doctor appointments, were available.
Many on social media also criticized the disruption to essential services due to the 10-day national mourning period and the upcoming funeral, with the eyes of much of the country and the world on London for an event of rare royal grandeur.
“Is cancelling massively popular British events really a good way to ‘honour’ her?” comedian Rachel Parris wrote on Twitter.
However, a survey published Tuesday by British pollster YouGov showed that 49% of respondents believed that media coverage of the queen’s funeral was “too much,” although 41% thought it was “about right.”
The media’s reporting on the queen’s death was prepared in advance and as a result “left little or no space for different perspectives or experiences to be included,” according to Deborah Madden, a principal lecturer at Britain’s University of Brighton who specializes in the politics of grief.
The context of the current cost of living crisis in the U.K. has been missing from the coverage and exposes “inequalities that are more deeply rooted and systemic,” she said, adding that the reporting had been inadequate when dealing with people “who have openly dissented and resisted grieving or mourning.”
British government guidelines state that businesses are not obliged to close for the funeral and it is up to the discretion of employers whether to allow their staff to have the day off.
But a number have already said they will be shutting down and for some it has already proven to be a public relations nightmare.
Having declared that it would be evicting guests from its venues and closing for 24 hours out of respect for the queen’s funeral, vacation provider Center Parcs swiftly reversed its decision after widespread media criticism. It was denounced further when it said that the facilities would be closed.
The company said in a statement that it had “contacted all the guests due to arrive on Monday Sept. 19 and offered them a number of different options.”
Having already canceled some flights Wednesday when the queen’s coffin was moved through London to lie in state, London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s busiest transit hubs, also warned of disruption “to ensure silence” during the funeral.
The Musicians’ Union, the labor union representing British musicians, criticized a decision by bosses of London’s transport network to suspend all street entertainment. In an open letter to Transport for London, it said musicians’ income would be put at risk “particularly during a cost-of-living crisis.”
A spokesperson for TFL said the decision had been taken to “maximise space for the large crowds mourning the monarch as she lies in state.”
Even well established performers have seen their shows canceled. Stand-up comedian and columnist Mark Steel told his followers on Twitter that his show on Friday was postponed by the local government in the town of Chatham in Kent because “we’re in a period of mourning.”