THE professor leading Oxford’s world-leading coronavirus vaccination programme has given her approval to innovative socially-distanced dining pods at a village pub.

Prof Sarah Gilbert was among the first diners at the White Hart in Wytham, just outside Oxford, which reopened on Saturday. The Oxford University academic cut a ribbon to launch one of the 10 pods in the courtyard of the 15th century gastropub.

Other guests included Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran and the leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, Emily Smith.

The cylindrical wooden booths have been made in the village by carpenter Ross Lambert. They are covered in clear virus-proof vinyl, protecting occupants from the coughs, sneezes and the worst of the English weather.

Prof Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, was joined by her colleague on the team, Teresa Lambe. She said: “It was wonderful to be able to enjoy the White Hart’s excellent food in the new pods, which provide for sheltered and screened outdoor dining. We had a relaxed evening with great service.”

When asked whether they met her high standards as an academic at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19, she said: “Yes, they are great.”

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Ms Moran agreed, saying: “Lockdown has been busy but awful. It’s great to be able to do thing like this. The pods are lovely.”

Owner Mark ‘Baz’ Butcher said: “Our 16th-century pub has long been popular with Oxford academics alongside villagers and the wider foodie community, so it seemed more than appropriate to recognise and express our gratitude to one of the university’s current innovators at this momentous time.”

He said the pods had proved popular, adding: “We made an early reckoning that we’d have to mitigate social distancing measures and consumer concerns about eating out. Since announcing the pods we’ve established a waiting list high into triple figures, which tells us we got the mix right.”

The White Hart is now open from Wednesday to Sunday. Book at