COVID warnings as thousands hit beaches and parks as lockdown eased on hottest day of the year

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·6 min read

Watch: People enjoy the warm weather on Bournemouth beach

With the UK in a mini heatwave this week, thousands of people are hitting beaches and parks to bask in sunshine just as lockdown restrictions have begun to ease.

Temperatures peaked at 24.5C (76.1F) at Kew Gardens in west London on Tuesday, making it the hottest day of the year, the second warmest March day on record and the hottest March day in 53 years, according to the Met Office.

The rules on social gatherings eased this week, with the rule of six brought back – but only if people are meeting outside.

As a result, outdoor spaces were packed with people, including at Brighton beach, where fire jugglers performed for crowds.

However, the sight of thousands of people flocking together just as the regulations eased prompted police to urge sun-seekers to stay away from large public spaces over fears COVID numbers could start to rise.

People enjoy the evening sunlight on Primrose Hill, north London. Picture date: Tuesday March 30, 2021. Temperatures in parts of the UK are expected to be significantly warmer this week as families and friends are reunited and sporting activities are allowed to resume in England. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
People enjoy the evening sunlight on Primrose Hill, north London, on the hottest day of the year so far. (Getty)
BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 30: People enjoy the warm Spring weather on Brighton beach on March 30, 2021 in Brighton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
People enjoy the warm spring weather on Brighton beach on Tuesday. (Getty)

Nottinghamshire Police issued a dispersal order after large crowds gathered at Nottingham Arboretum, with some appearing to flout rules on social distancing.

Assistant chief constable Steve Cooper said: “While we can of course understand people’s desire to want to be out in the sun and enjoying these mild temperatures we are currently experiencing, the government and our health colleagues remain extremely cautious and advise that people continue to minimise social contact.

“We would like to remind people that we are still only partly out of lockdown measures.

“This week has seen the easing of some of the restrictions but we are still required to keep our distance from each other and only mix with one other household outdoors, up to six people.”

After a brawl broke out in the city park, alcohol was also banned from anyone attempting to enter.

Councillor David Mellen from Nottingham City Council added: “Over 600 local people have died due to the virus.

“We owe it to their families, to each other and to frontline workers not to jeopardise the strides we have made towards reducing the spread of COVID by acting so thoughtlessly and recklessly.”

Meanwhile, a beach bar was ordered to stop selling alcohol after customers queued for 40 minutes for a pint.

The Beach Bar on Cleethorpes Promenade, Lincs, opened up to customers on Monday, even though pubs remain closed for lockdown.

North East Lincolnshire licensing officers have now served a notice on the premises, ordering it to stop selling alcohol.

Customers queued up for drinks from the Beach Bar on Cleethorpes Promenade, Lincs. (Reach)
Customers queued up for drinks from the Beach Bar on Cleethorpes Promenade, Lincs. (Reach)
Customers queued for 40 minutes for a pint from the bar. (Reach)
Customers queued for 40 minutes for a pint from the bar. (Reach)

But owner Kash Pungi claims his business is exempt and said he was not given a chance to explain when the regulation was served on him.

He says he was operating a click and collect service where customers pre-order with a text message and insists he was following regulations after taking advice from a leading licensing consultant.

He told Grimsby Live :"They are making it harder for businesses in Cleethorpes that are just trying to provide a service. I have always worked with the council but this is making it harder."

A spokesman from North East Lincolnshire Council said officers “took legal advice” before serving the prohibition notice.

In Leeds, crowds were also out to enjoy the sunshine at Woodhouse Moor in Hyde Park.

Crowds were out to enjoy the sunshine at Woodhouse Moor in Hyde Park, Leeds. (Reach)
Crowds were out to enjoy the sunshine at Woodhouse Moor in Hyde Park, Leeds. (Reach)
One resident said there were 'literally hundreds' of people at Hyde Park in Leeds, many having barbecues in the March heat. (Reach)
One resident said there were 'literally hundreds' of people at Hyde Park in Leeds, many having barbecues in the March heat. (Reach)

One resident who lives in viewing distance of Woodhouse Moor said: "I hope there's no outbreak, but they can't exactly be upset if there is one. It's selfish on their part, but understandable.”

Another resident said there were “literally hundreds” of people at the park, many having barbecues in the March heat.

Following the scenes of crowds gathering, health secretary Matt Hancock said that while people enjoy the sun, they need to be careful not to “blow it” at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic.

He tweeted: “Let’s enjoy the sun but let’s do it safely. We have come so far, don’t blow it now.”

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Despite the concerns, a leading government adviser has previously stated that there has “never” been a COVID outbreak linked to a crowded beach.

Last month, Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh and an adviser to the government's Sage advisory group, told the Commons science committee that beaches are not a hotbed for coronavirus transmission.

BRIGHTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 30: Fire jugglers draw a crowd on Brighton beach on March 30, 2021 in Brighton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Fire jugglers draw a crowd on Brighton beach on the hottest day of the year so far. (Getty)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/03/30: Crowds gather on Primrose Hill as a heatwave hits London. 
Temperatures rise in the capital, prompting large crowds to gather in the parks around the city. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Primrose Hill in north London drew crowds hoping to soak up the sun. (Getty)
Members of the public enjoy the beach in Bournemouth, southwest England as a spell of warm weather covers the country on March 30, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Bournemouth beach also proved popular with people seeking to enjoy the warm March weather. (Getty)

Asked about the risk of transmission in outdoor activities, he said: “Mass gatherings are absolutely a special case. Even outdoors they don't involve social distancing so those are clearly higher-risk than normal outdoor activities.

“But, for example, over the summer we were treated to all this on the television, news, pictures of crowded beaches and there was an outcry over this.

“There were no outbreaks linked to crowded beaches. There has never been a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a beach ever anywhere in the world to the best of my knowledge.”

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Sunbathers enjoy the beach as a spell of hot weather coincides with lockdown restrictions being eased on March 30, 2021 in Brighton, England. Forecasters are predicting temperatures of 22C (72F), and with the easing of coronavirus lockdown rules many people will be heading for the outdoors. (Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)
Sunbathers enjoy Brighton beach as a spell of hot weather coincides with lockdown restrictions being eased. (Getty)
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: Crowds head for the beach as a spell of hot weather coincides with lockdown restrictions being eased on March 30, 2021 in Brighton, England. Forecasters are predicting temperatures of 22C (72F), and with the easing of coronavirus lockdown rules many people will be heading for the outdoors. (Photo by Chris Eades/Getty Images)
Matt Hancock urged people to enjoy the sun but to continue with social distancing. (Getty)

Tuesday’s peak temperature was only slightly below the UK’s hottest ever March temperature of 25.6C (78F), recorded in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.

However, Met Office forecaster Alex Burkill said it was a “possibility” that the record could be broken on Wednesday, with temperatures expected to reach around 25C (77F).

Watch: How England will leave lockdown