BASILDON’S Towngate Theatre should be the next in line to be used as a mass vaccination centre, council bosses say.

The theatre is currently a Covid testing centre, but leading figures at Basildon Council want testing moved to one of the “countless empty shops” in the town centre.

With the mass vaccine rollout under way, this would allow for the NHS to bring a mass jab centre to the theatre, on St Martin’s Square, according to deputy leader Kerry Smith.

It comes as the virus rate in Essex dropped below 300 per 100,000.

Mr Smith said: “You wouldn’t be able to have both the testing centre and the vaccine site in the same place.

“But there’s so many empty shops in the town, the testing centre could be downsized and moved into those.

“We have to treat vaccine and testing equally, but we do need another mass delivery vaccine site in the town.”

If the Essex University Partnership NHS Trust, which is behind the plans, was to use the Towngate theatre as a vaccine centre, it would join the Lodge in Runwell, and the Cliffs Pavilion in Westcliff as mass sites serving south Essex.

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This comes as Basildon Hospital has been recognised by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as “one of the highest performing vaccine sites” in the UK.

Basildon Hospital staff have also now urged the public to “stick to the rules” to help beat a “very dangerous virus.”

Mr Smith added: “I’m really pleased to see the virus rates dropping in Basildon. 

“I’m not sure if as many people are using the testing centre at the Towngate now. 

“A few weeks ago I would have seen huge queues.

“Testing cannot be forgotten. 

“If you could convert the shops, and make them all safe, I think that would work. 

“If people know testing is so close to a vaccine centre, people may be scared to have the jab.”