As Britain braces itself for a heatwave this week, councils are urging people to take all necessary health precautions against the rising temperatures, while maintaining social distancing and protecting those most vulnerable to coronavirus.
With the mercury in parts of the country set to reach highs of between 30-34C between now and Friday, the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, warns that the elderly and those suffering from heart and respiratory problems are most at risk.
It comes as Public Health England and the Met Office has today updated its Heat Health Alert to Level 3.
Social workers, community wardens and maintenance staff are all going on high alert, identifying and looking out for those who might be struggling, while making sure social distancing measures are maintained.
Residents are being urged by councils to keep an eye on vulnerable or elderly family and friends and help save lives, while following government guidance on preventing the spread of the virus.
Many of these people are already being closely monitored by councils and local partners during the pandemic, due to the overlapping risks from both public health emergencies.
This includes the need for those most vulnerable to stay at home, such as those who are shielding and self-isolating and who may be exposed to high indoor temperatures. Care services including care homes and domiciliary care providers also need to make sure they have the capacity to meet any rise in demand from both heat and coronavirus-related issues, while following guidance to reduce and prevent infection.
Following the 2003 heatwave in which more than 2,000 people in England died due to the extreme temperatures, the country has developed an annual heatwave plan with local authorities, health professionals and the emergency services working together to help keep people safe.
Councils are now adapting their heatwave plans in keeping with the latest coronavirus advice, making calls and extra visits to vulnerable people as required. They are also urging people to call their local council if they believe anyone needing help is being missed out.
Local authorities are involved in year-round preparations for exceptional weather conditions, making sure their areas are as able to cope with high temperatures as they are with freezing temperatures or flooding, which have been made all the more important due to the impact of the pandemic.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
"High temperatures combined with the impact of coronavirus makes for a potentially deadly combination and councils are doing all they can to reduce the risk, but they cannot do it alone.
“Hot weather advice might seem common sense, but local people can make a massive difference by helping us to identify other residents who may need some advice or practical help.
“We know that effective action, taken early, can reduce the health impacts of exposure to excessive heat. There are simple preventive measures which, to be effective, need to be planned in advance of a heatwave.
"No one is immune to the power of the sun. Drinking plenty of water, keeping our homes cool, avoiding direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day and using sunscreen are sensible precautions we all need to remember. Looking around at how our older neighbours are coping as we head out to the shops or the beach for a day out takes no effort, but could be crucial in making sure they are also able to make the best of the summer."
Hot weather tips
- Look out for others, especially older people, young children and babies and those with underlying health conditions
- Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
- Drink plenty of water and take water with you, if you are travelling
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
- Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
- Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, if you have to go out in the heat
- Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day
- Wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes
- Met Office: Hot spell on the way this week
- Supporting vulnerable people before and during a heatwave – Advice for health and social care professionals
- Supporting vulnerable people before and during a heatwave – advice for care home managers and staff
- Met Office guide to heat levels
- Heatwave plan for England