housands of people descended on Chinatown in extraordinary scenes after a council bus promised Covid-19 jabs with no appointment, NHS number or ID.
Crowds gathered on the pavement outside a barbershop following an advert posted on the Chinese Information and Advice Centre charity’s website saying “undocumented migrants” were welcome.
The bus run by Westminster Council is an official service facilitated by the Government and NHS visiting different locations within the area.
The CIAC advert said: “A vaccine bus is available in London Chinatown to offer free vaccine jab to the Community without appointment.
“You DO NOT need to have: NHS number, any proof of address, personal identification. Undocumented migrants also welcomed. Stay safe! Get vaccinated!”
Coronavirus jabs can normally only be booked via the NHS website or at a GP surgery. Those who are not eligible have been told to wait to be contacted.
But 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.
However, the demand in Chinatown appears to be by far the highest seen so far.
Anti-vaxxer Piers Corbyn, brother of ex-Labour leader Jeremy, turned up to lead a protest urging people not to get the jab.
A group of women chanted “shame on you” at people on board the bus.
Many of those who responded to the call are unlikely to be registered with local GPs – the normal route for obtaining vaccine appointments – or may have feared that coming forward through more official channels might lead to problems with their migration status and possible deportation.
To counter fears, pamphlets were delivered through the doors of local businesses a week before the arrival of the vaccine bus to encourage people to attend.
A spokesman for the North-West London Clinical Commissioning Group, which set up the vaccine bus, said: “The offer of the Covid vaccine is available to people over the age of 30 and those in the priority groups as outlined by the JCVI [joint committee on vaccination and immunisation].
“Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid-19 and we remain committed to working with the local community to ensure all those who are eligible can receive their vaccine.”
Demand was so overwhelming that the medics in the white bus are understood to have implemented their own ad-hoc only 40s age limit in order to target the most vulnerable categories first.