Europe swelters under a heatwave complicated by Covid-19 restrictions
Sun-seekers flocked to beaches over the weekend as parts of Western Europe sweltered in a heatwave, but authorities urged people to avoid crowded areas and keep wearing masks despite the heat over concern for the rising numbers of coronavirus cases across the continent.
A day after Britain recorded its hottest August day in 17 years at 36.4° Celsius (97.5° Fahrenheit) much of its southern coastline was packed with visitors, many of whom had been forced to abandon more exciting foreign holidays because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Authorities in Bournemouth, home to a seven-mile golden stretch of beach, warned that most of the beach was so busy that "safe social distancing is not possible" and urged people to stay away.
There was a similar story across other parts of Europe, where many residents endured weeks of lockdown earlier this year.
Crowds of Germans also headed for the coast on Saturday, but local authorities warned residents that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there are too many people.
Police in the capital Berlin told residents to avoid popular lake Mueggelsee while the beach at Prenzlau lake in Brandenburg state was turning people away.
"First time I've experienced that in 30 years," said the manager of the Prenzlau site, Ronny Klein.
France has also been sweltering through a heatwave since Thursday, with temperatures pushing towards 40°C (104°F) in several areas.
In the southwest, Brive-la-Gaillarde broke its own record with temperatures of 40.8°C on Friday as did Cognac with 39.8°C while Nantes posted a new all-time record of 39.6°C.
No relief is expected until Wednesday, with the soaring temperatures compounding the pressure as the country's coronavirus outbreak worsens, the number of daily infections hitting 2,288 on Friday.
Authorities reminded sweltering citizens that masks must continue to be worn where they have been mandated, despite the heat, with a new mask rule for crowded areas even outdoors set to come into effect in Paris on Monday.
Last year was France's hottest on record.
Researchers warned this week that climate change would likely bring more hot weather to Europe.
A drought that affected more than half of central Europe during the summers of 2018 and 2019 was "unprecedented in the last 250 years", according to a study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
It predicted that if greenhouse gas emissions continue their inexorable rise, the number of extreme two-year droughts will increase sevenfold in Europe in the second half of this century.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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