‘Let’s tackle Covid’: Twickenham Stadium becomes mass vaccination centre

Some 15,000 doses prepared at home of England rugby as Indian variant surges in nearby Hounslow, leading to huge queues

UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

Twickenham Stadium has been converted into a mass vaccination centre as medics battle a surge in the Indian variant of coronavirus.

Up to 15,000 first doses of a vaccine have been prepared for people who live nearby in an event called “Let’s Tackle Covid”.

The walk-in event at the home of England rugby is designed to head off a rise in cases of the more infection Indian-origin Covid-19 variant in neighbouring Hounslow, west London.

Currently, people over 30 are being called for inoculation in England.

However, after 2.30pm on Monday organisers said anyone over 18 would be able to get a jab because they did not want any doses wasted. More than 100 GPs and nurses were deployed to perform the injections.

Rory Hutchinson, the Scotland international rugby union player, was among the thousands queueing.

The 25-year-old Northampton Saints player said: “It was a really smooth process. I thought they were very professional. It was easy to find. I walked straight in and got my vaccine done. Then just had to wait a short while to make sure I was OK.

“I think we have been through a really tough time recently and hopefully we are on the mend now. I am just doing what I can to support that.”

Flo Flake-Parsons, 24-year-old student, said it was exciting to get her jab in a place “where there has been so many happy memories”.

The 24-year-old from Chiswick, west London, said it was a relief to be inoculated, adding: “It has been a really rubbish time for everyone and this is a good step back towards normality.”

Queues lengthened dramatically in the late afternoon, with hundreds of over-18s lining up. Kira Lewis, 21, travelled from Hampstead Heath in north London to get her first Pfizer dose.

The King's College graduate, who works at Labour First, told the PA news agency she joined the line at 5.15pm but had almost reached the front by 7pm.

She said: “We came from the other side of London for it, as it's worth the opportunity. Despite seeing the huge queue that is snaking around the stadium people are still keen to join, with some running to get to the back.”

Twickenham Stadium venue director Mark Lynch said it had taken 600 NHS and stadium workers less than a week to prepare the venue, which had previously been used as a testing centre.

The event was organised by the local NHS trust in partnership with Hounslow Council and England's Rugby Football Union.

Kelly O'Neill, Hounslow Council's director of public health, said: “Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid-19 and we encourage all our local community to have their vaccine as soon as they are eligible.”

The Indian coronavirus variant is driving the start of a third wave of infections in England, experts fear. Cases are particularly high in the northwest, Midlands and parts of London.

It is more easily transmissible than the original and Matt Hancock said last week that up to three-quarters of all new infections are from the Indian strain.

Professor Ravi Gupta – a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the government – told the BBC on Monday: “The numbers of cases are relatively low at the moment.

“All waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave.

“It will probably take longer than earlier waves to emerge because of the fact that we do have quite high levels of vaccination in the population, so there may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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