The mass vaccination centre at Epsom Downs Racecourse opened its doors for people to receive their first injections of the coronavirus vaccine Monday (January 11) as Surrey battles a surge in new cases and deaths associated with the virus.

Epsom Downs Racecourse becomes one of just seven mass vaccination centres currently in operation across the UK, joining other centres from Stevenage to Newcastle, as Surrey continues to be heavily impacted by Covid-19. 

According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) data released by Surrey County Council (SCC), there were 8,517 new cases of coronavirus in the county in the seven days up to January 6, for an infection rate per 100,000 people of 712.

As such, political and health leaders in the county hope the mass vaccination centre at Epsom Downs will have an impact in driving new cases and therefore new deaths associated with the virus down.

SCC Leader Tim Oliver said in an interview with Sky News on Saturday (January 9) that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine would be available to social and healthcare workers, and the over 80s, from 8am this morning in a mass rollout of the vaccine across the county.

"Our hospitals have been coping and they've been able to offer some aid to other counties. We've now got to the stage where our hospitals are under real pressure within the hospital system.

"So you know it's hugely important now that we see some impact from this lockdown and we see those numbers start to drop because the health system is absolutely at breaking point, no question about it.

"The positive news is that in Surrey from 8am on Monday we go live with our mass vaccination centre at Epsom Racecourse.

"We've had the delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine so we're ready to go and that will be starting with frontline healthcare and social care workers and with the over 80s," he said.

"We're in the last stretch I believe of this dreadful pandemic and if people can just hold on and just comply with the rules, stay at home, we can keep the NHS safe and make sure we save lives," Cllr Oliver added.

Around two million people across the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine according to the government, who are aiming to vaccinate almost 14 million vulnerable people by the middle of February.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said they are on course to meet that target, with over 200,000 people being vaccinated every day in England, a third of over-80s there already jabbed, and all adults expected to be offered an injection by the autumn.

The new vaccination centres like that at Epsom Downs Racecourse will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200, NHS England said.

The Health Secretary said the NHS has made "fantastic strides" with the rollout.

He added: "From today, the full scale of our plans will be published, so the public can be assured of the time, effort and resources that have gone and will go into ensuring we protect the British people from the scourge of this virus."

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 97,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.