In the second world war, country houses were requisitioned and turned into hospitals, schools and command headquarters. Eighty years on, a rather more eclectic selection of premises have been taken over in the push to vaccinate the UK’s most vulnerable people against Covid, including Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and the Manchester City and Plymouth Argyle football grounds.
In the North Yorkshire cathedral city of Ripon, it is the racecourse that has become a vaccination clinic. Six hundred patients a day are being vaccinated in enclosures created in the racecourse bar, a surreal experience for those used to sipping a pint of Theakston’s there, betting on horses rather than microbiology.
Sometimes people are emotional about being vaccinated against the disease that has imprisoned them in their homes for the best part of a year. But in Ripon this week the mood was of quiet gratitude and relief. Asked what he had missed in 2020, pig farmer Keith Hutchinson, 70, said, “Doing some graft.” He had a heart attack in the middle of the first lockdown and has had to stay at home recuperating.