Seven mass vaccination centres open as government urges people not to bend rules

Thousands more people will be called for their coronavirus jabs at seven new mass vaccination sites opening in England today, as the government desperately urges people to follow lockdown rules.

The new centres in Bristol, Surrey, London, Newcastle Manchester, Stevenage and Birmingham will have the capacity to vaccinate four people a minute, with over-80s and healthcare workers the first to be invited.

They will be joined by hundreds more GP sites and a small number of new pharmacy-led centres this week, taking the total number of places offering the coronavirus vaccine to around 1,200, according to NHS England.

But with the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital at a record high and the NHS buckling under the pressure, government ministers are doing all they can to get people to stay at home.

A health and social care worker receives her vaccine at one of the seven mass vaccination centres in Newcastle
A health and social care worker receives her vaccine at Newcastle’s Centre for Life, one of the new mass vaccination centres

They are considering tightening the national lockdown in England even further, according to reports in The Daily Telegraph, banning people from exercising with people they don’t live with.

The paper claims a government source said the current rules around physical activity are “being used as an excuse for people to go for a coffee in the park with their friends”.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to be drawn on speculation of changes in the law.

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But he continued to urge people to stay at home, adding: “Every flexibility can be fatal… this virus is so contagious it passes on and as we’ve seen it’s deadly.

“You might look at the rules and think, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter too much if I just do this or do that’.

“But these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit to what people should be doing.”

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Chief executive at College of Paramedics Tracy Nicholls says ambulance services are under ‘unprecedented pressure’

Sky News analysis shows people are moving around more than they did in the first lockdown in March, suggesting compliance has dropped.

Mr Hancock described the situation across the NHS as “very, very bad” and urged: “The single biggest thing that anybody can do is to follow the stay at home guidance.”

The number of people in hospital with the virus has reached a record-high in England, with lab-confirmed cases hitting three million and related deaths surpassing 81,000 at the weekend.

The ambulance service is said to be under “unprecedented pressure” with the chief executive of the College of Paramedics telling Sky News that crews are waiting up to nine hours with patients until there is a space for them in hospital.

In Northern Ireland, one hospital trust called all off-duty staff back to work after its chief executive said it was “facing into an abyss” amid spiralling admissions.

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In Surrey, 170 bodies are being kept at a temporary storage facility after local hospital mortuaries filled up.

The mortuary at Headley Court in Leatherhead opened to alleviate pressure during the first wave last year and can store an extra 800 on top of the capacity of 600 in nearby hospitals, a Surrey Local Resilience Forum spokesman said on Sunday.

With more than half of those at the temporary facility dead due to coronavirus, he warned that there would be a “real difficulty” if total capacity is reached in the coming weeks.

Patients are waiting up to nine hours in ambulances before they are transferred to hospital

The sites offering vaccinations in England from Monday are: Ashton Gate in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, the Excel Centre where London’s Nightingale hospital is based, Newcastle’s Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage and Birmingham’s Millennium Point.

They will ensure the government meets its target of two million people a week, with a total of 13 million in the top four priority groups vaccinated by mid-February, the government claims.

All adults nationwide will have been offered the jab by the autumn, Mr Hancock claimed earlier on Sunday.


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