Temperatures across the UK have started rising as an amber weather warning for extreme heat came into force in England at the start of what is anticipated to be a record-breaking heatwave.
The Met Office has forecast temperatures in Wales, the Midlands, the south-east and south-west England could jump to 31C on Sunday, before climbing to as high as 40C over the next few days as the country braces for the first ever red warning for exceptional heat, which begins at midnight.
The new health secretary, Steve Barclay, said extra measures were being put in place for ambulance services on Monday and Tuesday, including the provision of more call handlers and extra working hours.
Meteorologists have given an 80% chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C, set in Cambridge in 2019, with temperatures in London expected to hit 40C on Tuesday.
The UK’s first red extreme heat warning has been issued across a large part of England on Monday and Tuesday, while an amber warning initially covers all of England on Sunday and extends to southern Scotland and Wales from Monday until Tuesday.
The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four, which is described as a “national emergency”.
Barclay told the BBC: “We’re asking people to keep an eye out for their neighbours and those who may be vulnerable.
“Each ambulance trust has well-developed contingency plans for extreme weather [ and] we’re using the full capability of the hospital rather than people waiting longer than they need to in ambulances outside.”
Ministers held a virtual emergency Cobra meeting on Saturday after meteorologists warned the record high temperatures could put lives at risk.
The cabinet office minister, Kit Malthouse, who chaired the meeting, said transport services would face “significant disruption” on Monday and Tuesday and urged people not to travel.
He added schools were being issued with guidance to enable them to remain open.
The Met Office said the chance of extreme heat events hitting the UK had increased significantly due to climate change.
“The chances of seeing 40C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” said the Met Office climate attribution scientist, Dr Nikos Christidis.
July 17, 2022 at 02:28PM Jessica Murray Midlands correspondent