Coronavirus pandemic

Heatwave sends Britons to beaches, sparking warning

Bournemouth beach in England (above) was packed on Thursday as people celebrated the end of lockdown. Other beaches, including Southend in Essex (below), also drew large crowds - and official warning over the risks of Covid-19 infections.
Bournemouth beach in England (above) was packed on Thursday as people celebrated the end of lockdown. Other beaches, including Southend in Essex, also drew large crowds - and official warning over the risks of Covid-19 infections.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Bournemouth beach in England (above) was packed on Thursday as people celebrated the end of lockdown. Other beaches, including Southend in Essex (below), also drew large crowds - and official warning over the risks of Covid-19 infections.
Bournemouth beach in England was packed on Thursday as people celebrated the end of lockdown. Other beaches, including Southend in Essex (above), also drew large crowds - and official warning over the risks of Covid-19 infections.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Britons were urged to abide by social distancing rules yesterday over fears over a coronavirus resurgence after tens of thousands of people descended on beaches during a heatwave.

The possibility that beaches could be closed again has been raised by Health Minister Matt Hancock, who said ministers would "take action" if rules continued to be broken.

"We just have to recognise that yesterday was an extraordinarily hot day," Environment Minister George Eustice told Sky News television. "I do think we have to appeal to people to be careful here."

The southern English seaside resort of Bournemouth declared a major incident on Thursday after thousands flocked to its beach on the hottest day of the year.

Temperatures had risen to a record 33.3 deg C, prompting an influx of visitors desperate for sea, sand and fresh air after three months of lockdown.

Beaches elsewhere were packed as well, prompting the government's chief medical officer Chris Whitty to warn about the continued risk of infection.

"If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again," he wrote on Twitter.

Mr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation Covid-19 special envoy, told the BBC yesterday that Dr Whitty's advice that "the virus is still in general circulation" was important.

Before England largely lifts its lockdown rules on July 4, there are fears that social distancing rules are being largely ignored.

As well as warning about the scenes in Bournemouth, police criticised the number of fans who gathered outside Liverpool's Anfield ground on Thursday night after the club secured the English Premier League football title for the first time in 30 years.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Carden of Merseyside Police said: "Although the vast majority of celebrations were good-natured, a large number of people chose to gather outside the stadium."

 
 
 

Police were also called to disperse illegal parties in London, including one in Notting Hill, following similar scenes in Brixton earlier in the week.

The Metropolitan Police said missiles were thrown at officers who tried to break up the gathering in Notting Hill, and that a block party in Brixton had left more than 20 officers injured.

Britain has been among the hardest hit by the global coronavirus outbreak, recording the worst death toll in Europe so far.

Although infection rates have fallen significantly, the health ministry on Thursday recorded another 149 deaths among confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 43,230.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2020, with the headline 'Heatwave sends Britons to beaches, sparking warning'. Print Edition | Subscribe