The first part of the mourning for Elizabeth II forced all the British institutions to react at the height of the circumstances. The second, which will begin this Tuesday in London and will culminate the following Monday with the state funeral, is going to be a logistical challenge of enormous dimensions. The Metropolitan Police calculates that there may be up to 750,000 citizens who come to say their last goodbye to Isabel II, when on Wednesday, starting at five in the afternoon (six, in Spanish peninsular time), the burning chapel opens. The monarch’s coffin, which will spend the first night back in the capital (Tuesday to Wednesday) at Buckingham Palace, will remain in the center of the majestic Westminster Hall, the historic lobby and central hall attached to the Houses of Parliament, on the banks of the Thames. There, the queen’s father (George VI) and grandfather (George V), her mother, and her mentor and first in a long list of heads of government at his service, Winston Churchill, received tribute from the British. .
There will be a line that will move with relative agility and that will split into two when arriving in front of the catafalque where the coffin will rest. Nobody will be able to stop in his path next to the coffin. Even so, the wait, as the police have warned, can reach 35 hours. Complicated, even for the most devout, because Westminster Hall will be open twenty-four hours a day. Impossible to sit down to rest, much less camp while waiting. There will be mobile toilets, and 10,000 extra police officers will be deployed throughout the city. Identification bracelets will be given to citizens who queue, to allow them to momentarily leave their posts. The line will be divided into different segments, to be able to close them at intervals and allow the public some freedom of movement, as a way of resting.
For the state funeral and coffin procession, which will travel from Westminster Hall to Wellington Arch on a military truss, attendance figures can easily exceed the million people who witnessed Diana Spencer’s funeral in 1997.
The British authorities have already warned that many citizens should prepare for what could be a deep disappointment, because the queue to access Wesminster Hall will have to close, almost two days in advance, so that the deadlines are met. Thousands of people risk waiting long hours in vain.
The police have recommended – nothing is prohibited in the United Kingdom, everything is strongly advised – that people do not yet start queuing at Westminster Hall, although there are already dozens of those arriving in the capital who remain semi-encamped around Parliament. At the end of this Tuesday (ten at night, eleven in Spanish peninsular time) the official route designed to order the long queue of citizens planned, to say goodbye to Elizabeth II, will be published.
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The terror alert level has not been raised in the city, but access controls to Westminster Hall will be similar to those at airports. Security arches, metal detectors, and search of bags and backpacks. The size of the latter will be closely controlled, and it is not advisable to go there with bags of exaggerated size.
The city’s hotels are at full capacity, and the government plans to exceptionally allow restaurants, bars and pubs extend their opening hours licenses to twenty-four hours.
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