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Newport's empty Debenhams to become coronavirus vaccine centre

Newport's former Debenhams building is set to become a mass vaccination centre this winter. The shop has lay empty in the city's Friars Walk shopping centre since May 2021 after the brand closed all its UK stores when it was sold to online retailer Boohoo for £55million.

Large queues formed outside the shop on its final day of trading last year as Debenhams shut, six years after it opened as the flagship store in the £90 million Friars Walk in late 2015. Its loss was labelled "dreadful news" by Newport Business Improvement District (BID) and Newport was later named the UK city with the most closed shops in January 2022. You can read more about that here.

Despite calls for the building to be re-let it has remained empty since along with other Debenhams in Cardiff, Swansea and Carmarthen, though in August it was revealed the latter would be turned into a state-of-the-art gym. In May this year it emerged that the 90,000sq ft Newport site was being considered for a planned technology-focused learning campus for thousands of students. But it has been announced this week that the store will be temporarily used as a mass vaccination centre for autumn booster Covid jabs, the first time it has been used since Debenhams closed.

Read more: The Debenhams stores sat empty in the middle of Welsh cities for a whole year with no ideas how to fill them

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said the site was chosen due to its size, accessibility and proximity to the old mass vaccination centre at Newport Centre which closed in September. No date has been set for its opening but a spokesperson said it would confirm further details soon.

A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said: "The former Debenhams site has been agreed for us to use as a mass vaccination centre and this will enable us to continue our mass vaccination delivery in Newport. This site was considered due to its size, accessibility and being close to our former Newport Mass Vaccination Centre. We are currently working through the logistics of moving our plans forward and hope to update our communities with further information very soon.

“The site will enable those in Newport eligible for their Covid-19 autumn booster to have their vaccine locally. We also hope to use the site to deliver autumn boosters and flu vaccinations to health board staff. We urge everyone eligible for the autumn booster to take the offer of their vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones this winter."

Health boards in Wales are rolling out Covid boosters to certain groups this autumn including the over 50s, frontline health and social care workers and young people at clinical risk or who are immunosuppressed. You can find out more about getting your booster here.

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