Belfast’s SSE Arena and Reading’s Madejski Stadium are set to become the latest UK venues to open as COVID-19 vaccination centres.

The 11,000-seat Belfast arena has been unable to host events during lockdown and the venue announced today that it would open as a mass vaccination site during the spring.

It is anticipated that the centre will remain open until the summer and the arena said it would provide an update on any impacted shows as soon as possible.

Adrian Doyle, operations director at The Odyssey Trust, which owns the arena, said: “At a time when current restrictions mean that the arena cannot be used for concerts, shows and events, we are proud to play our part in this major new effort to further extend the vaccination programme. This is a hugely positive step forward in the fight against COVID-19.

“It will also bring us closer to a return to the live events, entertainment and experiences we all love and have greatly missed throughout this pandemic and we are proud to continue to support that effort.”

Meanwhile, Madejski Stadium (pictured), home of English Championship football club Reading, will open as a vaccination centre today (Monday). Jabs will initially be given to those aged 65 and over, as well as other eligible groups.

The site will have capacity to deliver thousands of vaccines each week, working through the prioritisation lists set out by the government. The site will be run by the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust as lead provider for large-scale vaccination centres across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West.

Dr Abid Irfan of Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group said: “It’s great that we have this mass vaccination centre now up and running in Reading. It means we’ll be able to deliver the jabs at pace and this will play a critical role in the vaccination programme which has been working so well across Berkshire West since the first sites came on stream in December.

“I’d like to thank the project team involved in setting up the centre which will build on the great work already being done by our primary care colleagues across the healthcare system in Berkshire West.

“The Madejski Vaccination Centre also means our primary care teams will now be able to devote more time to the other healthcare needs of their patients. We’ve all worked incredibly hard to make sure our surgeries continue to provide the wide range of health and care services people need at the same time as rolling out the vaccination programme.”

Image: Mark Hillary/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size