More cathedrals join the vaccination roll out

11th March 2021

Westminster Abbey and Chester Cathedral join the fight.

They are the latest cathedrals to help serve their communities in the fight against the pandemic and to support the rollout of the Covid vaccination programme.

More support for the vaccination roll out from English cathedrals.

The NHS yesterday opened a new Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Westminster Abbey in the south transept – home to the world famous Poets’ Corner – with actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry becoming of the first local residents to receive his vaccine there

He said it was extraordinary to receive his vaccine in such a symbolic place.

“Fancy the call to be jabbed sending me to Westminster Abbey of all spectacular places. Under the eye of the poets of Poets Corner and a dozen sleeping kings and queens,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful moment, but you feel that it’s not only helpful for your own health, but you know that you’re likely to be less contagious if you yourself happen to carry it.

“It’s a symbol of being part of society, part of the group that we all want to protect each other and get this thing over and done with.

“I’m so excited and it’s such a vindication of science and research and slow discovery and experiment.

“It’s not over yet by any means but it’s a wonderful step,’ he added.

Run by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, on behalf of the local GP network, it will provide up to two thousand injections each week and will be open two days a week.

The Abbey will remain open for the midday service of Holy Communion and the Dean and Chapter are currently exploring a timetable for opening the church for more daily and Sunday services and, eventually, the return of visitors and tourists.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, said:

“I walked back from having my own vaccination just days ago, suddenly filled with new confidence for the months ahead. I am full of admiration for the marvellous, dedicated people who make all of this possible.

“I am thrilled that the Abbey, once a place of sanctuary, is now able to send people out in greater safety. The Abbey is always a place of welcome for all, and I look forward to seeing many people here over the coming months.’

Pippa Nightingale, North West London NHS lead for the vaccination programme, said:

‘We are really pleased to be opening a new vaccination clinic in Westminster. Our gratitude goes out to the team at the iconic Westminster Abbey for allowing us to use the building and to their volunteers for supporting the running of the clinic. Westminster has seen lower uptake of the vaccine than some other areas of London so we are working hard to encourage residents to come for their vaccine when it is their time to do so.’

The Abbey clinic is open only for those with an appointment. Invitation letters will explain how people can book a slot and NHS leaders are urging people not to turn up at the centres without an appointment.

A NEW Covid-19 testing centre for people without symptoms is set to open in the heart of Chester city centre.

Chester Cathedral will be home to Cheshire West and Chester Council’s third asymptomatic testing centre in the borough.

The centres offer twice weekly testing for people who cannot work from home or people who care for family and friends, as well as people who share a household or bubble with a school pupil or someone who works at a school.

One in three people with Covid-19 do not have any symptoms so asymptomatic tests help to identify positive cases and prevent people from spreading the virus unknowingly.

The Dean of Chester, the Very Revd Tim Stratford, said: “We are very proud that Chester Cathedral can serve its local community in this way during the pandemic.

“Opening this building to the NHS, Council staff and local people to help stop the spread of a deadly disease is a return to our core purpose and values.
“The cathedral is a significant building in the heart of the city centre with good street level access into the South Transept where testing will take place.
“We hope that its use as an asymptomatic testing centre will strengthen the message about how important it is to stop Covid-19 spreading.”

Cllr Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “I am really pleased that we are able to work with Chester Cathedral to provide an asymptomatic testing centre at the heart of the city.

“This will be an essential support for staff in the retail and hospitality sector as restrictions ease in the coming months.
“It is a fabulous example of the community and Council working in partnership, all of us playing our parts in the fight against this dreadful virus.”

Further details about the opening and operational times of the Chester Cathedral asymptomatic testing centre will be announced in due course and it is hoped it will become operational early next month.

Westminster and Chester join five other Church of England cathedrals able to support their local communities in this way.

Worcester Cathedral opened as a Covid test centre earlier this month, Lichfield and Salisbury Cathedrals have both been used a vaccine clinics, the undercroft and crypt area of Blackburn Cathedral has been transformed into one of the nation’s mass vaccination hubs and the crypt of Rochester’s crypt was offering testing for asymptomatic patients from last December.