LONDON (TIP): A severe and prolonged heatwave is believed to have killed up to 760 people in England in the past nine days. Temperatures in parts of the country reached as high as 32 degree celsius on Thursday, four degrees short of the government announcing a Level 4 alert marking a national emergency.
Thursday was the sixth consecutive day with a recorded daytime temperature of over 30 degrees celsius marking Britain’s longest heatwave in seven years. Research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has estimated the death toll for the first nine days of the heatwave at between 540 and 760 people in England alone. With high temperatures likely to remain till the end of next week, the number of heatrelated deaths is expected to double.
A Level 3 heatwave alert means people should be aware of the actions to protect themselves from the possible health effects of hot weather, and social and healthcare services are advised to take specific actions that target highrisk groups. Ambulance services have already seen a 30% increase in past three days. A Level 3 is triggered as soon as the Met Office confirms there is a 90% chance of heatwave conditions, when temperatures are high enough over threshold levels to have a significant effect on health on at least two consecutive days.
Following this latest Met Office alert, Public Health England (PHE), an executive agency of UK’s department of health, is continuing to remind people to be aware of the health risks of hot weather. “… try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, avoid physical exertion, wear light, loose fitting cotton clothes, drink plenty of cold drinks, if you have a health problem, keep medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator and never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants , young children or animals ,” it has said.
Dr Angie Bone, Heatwave Plan lead for PHE, said: “In this continued hot weather, it’s important to remember that high temperatures can be dangerous, especially for yulnerable people like older people , young children and those with serious illnesses.” Professor Dame Sally C Davies , chief medical officer in the department of health, said: “Although it seems we barely saw the sun last summer in England, last year’s Climate Change Risk Assessment clearly indicated that we are increasingly likely to experience summer temperatures that may be harmful to health.
For example the temperatures reached in 2003 are likely to be a ‘normal’ summer by 2040, and indeed globally, countries are already experiencing record temperatures.” Declaring a Level 4 alert indicates a major incident. The government will decide whether to go to Level 4 if there is a very severe heatwave that will last for a considerable period of time and will also affect transport, food and water, energy supplies and businesses as well as health and social-care services.
The hottest July temperature in Britain was 36.5°C, recorded in Surrey in 2006. The hottest ever in Britain was 38.5°C in Kent in 2003. July is also expected to become the driest July since records began in 1766 and may beat the record set in 1955 when only one inch (30mm) of rain fell.