Wimbledon crowd gives standing ovation to Oxford Covid vaccine developer Dame Sarah Gilbert

Tennis fans show support for vaccine scientists and keyworkers on first day at Centre Court

Conrad Duncan
Monday 28 June 2021 21:23 BST
Standing ovation at Wimbledon for AstraZeneca Covid vaccine developer

One of the British scientists behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and other “inspirational individuals” from the Covid pandemic have been given a standing ovation before the first match on Centre Court at this year’s Wimbledon.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert was invited with colleagues to the Royal Box on Monday for the first day of the tennis tournament, where she was met with applause and cheers from other match-goers.

Other guests included Hannah Ingram-Moore, daughter of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised over £32m for the NHS, as well as keyworkers from the pandemic.

Announcers paid tribute to the “important work” done by such workers before the match between defending champion Novak Djokovic and British 19 year-old Jack Draper.

The University of Oxford team led by Dame Sarah produced one of the first Covid vaccines to be approved for use in the UK and around the world, alongside the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

Following the game, tributes were also paid on social media led by prime minister Boris Johnson and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

“Thank you Dame Sarah Gilbert and the incredible team that developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine,” a tweet from the official Kensington Royal account said.

Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter that the standing ovation was an “inspiring moment” as he thanked those who had contributed to the UK’s fight against Covid-19.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have saved lives and helped us on the road back to normality,” he said.

Organisers have issued hundreds of free tickets to keyworkers throughout the tournament to say thanks for their work over the past 18 months.

“In order to say thank you, the AELTC [All England Lawn Tennis Club] has provided 100 daily Centre and No 1 Court tickets to various groups ranging from the NHS to Transport For London... and other inspirational individuals, all in recognition of the service they have provided to those in their communities throughout the pandemic,” the organisation said on its website.

Fans attending this year’s tournament will have to present negative lateral flow tests or evidence of being double-vaccinated upon arrival at the grounds.

Multiple hand sanitiser stations have also been installed and guests are being asked to wear face coverings when walking around the grounds in order to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus.

Sally Bolton, the competition’s chief executive, said she hoped there would be a “familiar feel” to this year’s championship following a “level of uncertainty” caused by the pandemic.

“When people arrive through the gates this morning, as they are doing now, what they will see and feel is something very familiar, a championship that we've all missed for two years,” Ms Bolton said on Monday.

“That's been a really important part of what we've done as we've gone about thinking about how we do that in a safe way.”

Additional reporting by PA

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