It's not cricket - Lord's doubles up as vaccination centre

London (AFP) –


It is a venue synonymous with the sound of leather on willow, but it was the coronavirus they were hoping would be hit for six when members of the public arrived at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on Wednesday to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Lord's has joined a list of venues in Britain, which include cathedrals, and mosques, as well as hospitals and doctors' surgeries, all playing their part in an effort to end the pandemic.

And while the scoreboards at the 'Home of Cricket' are no stranger to large numbers, not even they are used to accommodating the four-figure achievements of the medical team now in temporary residence in a conference room at the venue.

"We've vaccinated around five to six thousand patients at this site over the past four-and-a-half days, and hopefully the numbers will increase," lead clinician Dr Rishi Chopra told AFP.

"We're aiming to do 2,000 per day going forward, and we're aiming for 2,000 today. We've had some fantastic feedback from patients and Lord's has been incredibly hospitable."

- 'So beautiful' -

Gerardine Heneghan, 71, was certainly one of the vaccine recipients grateful to have received her jab in an historic, if still medically sterile, environment.

"It's so beautiful isn't it?," she said. "It's such an iconic place as well, and all those amazing cricketers... love it!"

This is far from the first time Lord's, which has stood on its present site in the northwest London suburb of St John's Wood since 1814, has been used for something other than cricket.

During the Second World War it was requisitioned as an aircrew receiving centre, with civilian volunteers reporting to Lord's to join the Royal Air Force.

And Jon Williams of Marylebone Cricket Club, the owners of Lord's, was pleased to see the ground again assisting in a national emergency, with more than 100,000 people having died from the virus in Britain.

"I think everyone that can, should play a part in doing everything that we can to help deal with this dreadful virus, so it's a pleasure from our perspective to be able to do something to support people at a local level, and also our NHS (National Health Service) colleagues," he said.

The pandemic meant fans were barred from Lord's last season, with no international matches staged at the ground.

New Zealand and India, however, are both scheduled to play five-day Tests at Lord's in May and August respectively, with tickets having already gone on sale in the hope the virus will have relented sufficiently by then to allow for the safe return of spectators.

"We're excited for the 2021 season whatever that brings, whether that's games behind closed doors or with a full house, we'll be ready for all of those," said Williams.