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WEATHER

Soaring European temperatures raise fears of fresh virus contagion

People enjoy the sun on the banks of the river Seine, in Paris, on June 23, 2020 as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
People enjoy the sun on the banks of the river Seine, in Paris, on June 23, 2020 as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. AFP - STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

Europe has been hit by its first sizzling temperatures since the coronavirus crisis began, with the mercury in France, Spain and even the Nordic countries shooting above seasonal norms.

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While Spain has put nine regions on alert for extreme heat of up to 41 degrees, and Sweden warned of an increased risk of forest fires, Britain – which is slowly emerging from lockdown – was bracing for an influx of visitors to its beaches.

Forecasts from Météo-France said that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would become 2020’s hottest days to date, with temperatures in the country hovering around the mid-30s.

People sunbathe in a kind of green beach amid the skyscrapers called "Il Lido Bam" located in the "Library trees" park on June 23, 2020 in the Porta Nuova district, central Milan.
People sunbathe in a kind of green beach amid the skyscrapers called "Il Lido Bam" located in the "Library trees" park on June 23, 2020 in the Porta Nuova district, central Milan. AFP - MIGUEL MEDINA

A "heat wave brigade" will be roaming the streets of Nice to encourage people, especially the elderly, to hydrate, while water fountains and mist machines have been set up throughout the city.

The rising temperatures have spurred fears the virus will again take hold as residents who have endured months of lockdown fail to respect social distancing rules.

Health authorities in Sweden have reportedly warned against using fans in communal areas of elderly care homes, fearing they could spread the virus, instead recommending air conditioners be installed.

Arctic Circle sweltering

Europe’s hot weather has, however, been eclipsed by a heatwave in the Russian region of Siberia, where the Arctic Circle town of Verkhoyansk hit a probable record of 38C on Saturday.

The World Meteorological Organisation said it is looking to verify the temperature reading, which would be unprecedented for the region.

The June temperature spike comes as travel restrictions are lifted between many European countries hoping to draw back tourists and kick start their struggling economies.

Masks ‘still safe’ in soaring temperatures

Britain has instructed residents that face masks are now the “new normal” in Europe and should be considered as essential as a toothbrush when packing for summer holidays.

In France face masks are compulsory on public transport, including the Eurostar, for anyone aged over 11. Anyone caught without a mask risks a fine of €135.

Although wearing a mask in extreme heat is uncomfortable, an occupational health and safety review by the Robert-Sauvé Research Institute in Quebec concluded it was not dangerous.

"The majority of studies show that wearing a mask does not provoke a measurable increase in internal body temperature," the review said, adding it could however compromise the way masks are worn.

The institute recommends wearing masks made from “breathable material” and changing them once they become wet as a result of breathing or sweating.

Heatwaves in June and July 2019 set new temperature records in Europe, with experts saying the extreme temperatures are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change.

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