Thousands of people flooded into London’s Chinatown today in extraordinary scenes after a ‘vaccine bus’ promised Covid-19 jabs with no appointment, NHS number or identification needed.
Adults crowded onto a pavement outside a barbershop next to the small van, after an advert was posted on the Chinese Information and Advice Centre charity’s website to say that ‘undocumented migrants’ were welcome.
The advert said: ‘A vaccine bus is available in London Chinatown to offer free vaccine jab to the Community without appointment. Date: 27 May 2021 (Thursday) Time: 12 – 5pm. You DO NOT need to have: NHS number, any proof of address, personal identification. Undocumented migrants also welcomed. Stay safe! Get vaccinated!’
Anti-vaxxer Piers Corbyn, brother of ex-Labour leader Jeremy, later turned up at the scene to lead a protest urging people not to get the jab – and a group of women chanted ‘shame on you’ at people on board the bus.
Vaccine buses have popped up around the UK with volunteer groups enlisted to help run them in areas where take-up has been low such as Luton and Bolton, but the demand in Chinatown is by far the highest seen so far.
Covid-19 jabs can only be booked via the NHS website or at a GP surgery, and it is not clear if the vaccine being offered was one of the three approved jabs. Those who are not eligible have been told to wait to be contacted.
Currently, people in England can only get their jab if they are aged 30 or over, will turn 30 before July 1, are classed as clinically vulnerable, have a learning disability or are a frontline health or social care worker.
People can also have one if they get a carer’s allowance, get support following a council assessment or their GP record shows they are a carer. Patients have been told not to take up offers of the jab from non-official providers.
But the bus is an official service, run by Westminster Council in partnership with NHS England – and goes to different locations within the area. Its next visit is due to be the Portobello Road area tomorrow from 10am.
NHS staff are on board to deliver the vaccine, alongside council staff and volunteers who are helping to answer questions people might have about the jab, testing and staying safe during the pandemic.
Hundreds of people turn up to be vaccinated after jabs were offered in London’s Chinatown this afternoon
People fill a street in London’s Chinatown this afternoon where free Covid-19 jabs are in offer for a day without appointment
Police control the crowds after a Covid-19 vaccination van turned up in London’s Chinatown this afternoon
Huge crowds in Chinatown today with Covid-19 jabs on offer for a day without appointment and any need for proof of address
Huge crowds of people queue up for their coronavirus vaccination in London’s Chinatown this afternoon
A mobile coronavirus vaccination van in London’s Chinatown this afternoon as people turn up to get their jab
People wear face masks as they line the streets of Chinatown in London this afternoon
The huge crowds today come after this advert was posted on the Chinese Information and Advice Centre website.
It came as promising data suggested Britain’s coronavirus outbreak may not be spiralling out of control despite fears the rapid spread of the Indian variant could threaten plans to ease lockdown restrictions next month.
The number of people falling ill with symptoms of coronavirus has fallen by up to 10 per cent over the last week, according to a symptom-tracking app.
Academics at King’s College London and health-tech firm ZOE estimate that 2,550 Britons — and 1,919 people in England — were becoming ill every day on May 23. For comparison, figures a week earlier stood at 2,750 and 2,132, respectively.
Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist behind the Covid Symptom Study app, admitted that the Indian variant was becoming dominant in the UK. But he said national figures ‘remain unaffected’, despite numerous measures saying that the outbreak is starting to get bigger with the quick growth of the B.1.617.2 strain.
Professor Spector claimed cases appeared to be spiking in hotspots including Bolton, Kirklees and Leicester but added: ‘Reassuringly, we aren’t seeing numbers rise in other surrounding areas.
People queue as they fill the streets of Chinatown in London today to get their Covid-19 jabs without appointment
A mobile coronavirus vaccination van is pictured in London’s Chinatown this afternoon amid huge demand for the jab
Signs are held up as people wait for their coronavirus vaccination in London’s Chinatown this afternoon
People wait for a jab in Chinatown today after an advert was placed on the Chinese Information and Advice Centre website
Huge numbers of people wait in line in Chinatown this afternoon after Covid-19 jabs were offered for free
A woman holds up a sign as people fill the streets of London’s Chinatown today with free Covid-19 jabs on offer
People queue up in Chinatown this afternoon for their Covid-19 without any need for proof of address, ID or NHS records
‘Our data also indicates vaccines are still effective against the Indian variant and this is likely the reason why cases haven’t increased and hospitalisation and deaths remain low.’
The figures come after one of the Government’s top scientific advisers today warned that No10’s plan to ease all restrictions in England on June 21 hangs ‘in the balance’ because of the Indian variant.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London epidemiologist and key member of SAGE, said the strain would trigger a ‘small third wave’. But he said the next two or three weeks would be ‘critical’ in deciding whether it was safe to move to step four on the roadmap.
Meanwhile, another SAGE expert last night called for ministers to delay next month’s ‘freedom day’. Asked whether he would advise Boris Johnson to continue with plans to unlock fully next month, Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, answered ‘no’ because ‘at the moment it looks a little bit risky’.
Top scientists are waiting for more data on transmissibility of the variant to model how badly the country could be hit by relaxing restrictions. Ministers are also waiting on hospital admission data to prove jabs are breaking the link between infections and serious illness.
People fill the streets of London’s Chinatown this afternoon where free Covid-19 jabs are in offer without appointment
People stand and wait for their coronavirus jab after they were offered in London’s Chinatown this afternoon
People fill the streets of London’s Chinatown where free Covid-19 jabs are in offer for a day without appointment
People queuing for their jab in London’s Chinatown today who do not need proof of address, ID or NHS records
Britain’s mammoth vaccine drive continued at full steam ahead, with 387,987 top-up jabs dished out across the country yesterday. It takes the UK’s number of fully vaccinated adults to more than 23.6million
Daily infections (3,180) spiked by 18 per cent compared to last Wednesday’s figure, reaching their highest level since April 12 (3,568). But deaths remained in single figures, with nine fatalities today up slightly on the three posted last Wednesday
Matt Hancock today said the link between Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths is being ‘severed’ but it is too early to say whether the June 21 lifting of lockdown will go ahead. The Health Secretary told MPs he ‘desperately’ wanted to press ahead with the plans.
But the picture on the Covid outbreak in England, and Britain as a whole, remains a mixed bag. Daily positive tests in the UK yesterday breached the 3,000 mark for the first time since April, and other surveillance studies have warned of a rise in cases across the nation.
Separate Test and Trace figures today showed the number of positive swabs across England fell slightly last week, with 14,051 recorded — down from 14,082 in the previous seven-day spell. However, this was fuelled by a drop in the number of NHS workers and seriously ill patients testing positive.
There was a small rise in cases among the general public (from 12,381 to 12,561), despite 40,000 fewer tests being carried out across England. Swab positivity rates rose in around a third of the 300-plus authorities dotted across the country but fell in Bolton — Britain’s worst-hit borough, where the Indian variant is known to be rife.