Elderly people with coronavirus vaccine appointments have been warned not to brave dangerous conditions as the UK braces for further snow and the coldest temperatures of the winter yet.
Age UK urged people to look out for elderly relatives as temperatures are expected to plummet on Tuesday night, with lows of -18C forecast in the Scottish Highlands.
Monday night saw the coldest temperatures of the winter so far with -16.7C recorded in the region.
The warning comes after hundreds of pensioners were sent home after standing for hours in sub-zero temperatures to wait for their vaccinations in the Fife region.
One elderly woman was reported to have collapsed with suspected hypothermia outside a community clinic in Lochgelly, said Labour MSP Alex Rowley.
The delays were caused by a “glitch” in NHS Fife’s booking system, which over allocated appointments at five vaccination centres across the health board area, said the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who apologised on Tuesday.
Met Office meteorologist Clare Nasir said temperatures are set to “plummet wherever you are” on Wednesday, with “strong winds” and snow expected to be “disruptive across many areas” in the UK.
She added: “Through Wednesday morning, we’ll see a rash of snow showers but subtle changes through the day, the winds will lose their strength as the snow showers become more confined to the east of England.
“Further west, we’ll see some brighter skies and sunshine through the day but we will see more showers come in through the far north-east of Scotland on Thursday after another severe frost and bitter start to the day.”
Yellow weather warnings for snow and ice are in place across much of Northern Ireland until 11am on Wednesday, and the eastern half of the UK mainland until midnight. It extends throughout Thursday and Friday for the northeastern edges of England and Scotland.
Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, warned elderly people with appointments for the Covid vaccine not to attempt travelling through treacherous conditions and to contact their GP to find out what alternative arrangements can be made locally.
She said: “It’s important to remember that Covid-19 vaccination is not a one-off opportunity, if for any reason you can’t take the first appointment you’re offered there will be other opportunities later on, possibly in a range of nearby settings.”
The charity advised anyone heading out on essential journeys to plan ahead to avoid dangerous routes, wrapping up warm and helping grandparents with shopping so they can stay indoors.
Norfolk Police also warned people not to travel in blizzard-like conditions, adding that many roads have fallen victim to snowdrifts.
The force said that officers attended a number of minor road traffic collisions on Monday amid Storm Darcy, and police in King’s Lynn said a lorry became stuck in a snowdrift and had to be towed out by farmers.
Some vaccination centres remained closed on Tuesday because of the severe weather, including those in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and Clacton on Sea and Colchester in Essex.
Additional reporting by PA