Johnson skips emergency Cobra meeting as experts warn thousands could die in UK heat wave | Weather United Kingdom


Boris Johnson was charged on Saturday with being ‘missing in action’ after failing to attend a Cobra meeting to discuss the national heatwave emergency following predictions that thousands of people could die in the coming days.

As the threat to life from the impending heatwave continues to crystallize, the Prime Minister opted to skip Saturday’s meeting. Instead, he stayed in his Checkers country retreat, where he is due to host a thank you party for supporters on Sunday.

Britain is bracing for record temperatures, potentially as high as 40C on Monday. The threat has already prompted school closures, NHS ‘nightmare’ warnings and instructions for rail passengers not to travel unless absolutely essential.

On Friday, the Met Office issued its first-ever red alert warning for extreme heat – meaning a risk of “serious illness or danger to life”, even for healthy people. The scientific director of the UK Health Security Agency, Isabel Oliver, pointed out yesterday that in a considerably cooler heatwave last year, 1,600 people died.

The Government’s response was led by Cabinet Minister Kit Malthouse, who chaired the Cobra meeting in Johnson’s absence, prompting deputy Labor leader Angela Rayner to accuse the Prime Minister of ‘missing in action’ .

An old tire is exposed at low tide in the River Carew, Pembrokeshire. Photography: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

“The public will have no faith in this zombie Conservative government responding quickly and decisively to this national emergency as this disgraced Prime Minister prepares to party while Britain boils,” he said. she stated.

Downing Street insiders said it was not unusual for senior ministers other than the prime minister to chair a Cobra meeting.

The government has been accused of being slow to offer advice to deal with the heat. After the Cobra meeting, Malthouse said, “If people don’t have to travel, it can be a time to work from home.”

But the work-from-home revolution is more likely to reverse – at least temporarily – with workers heading to air-conditioned offices.

Mark Dixon, founder of IWG, a provider of flexible workspaces, said he had been particularly busy in the south east of England. “We have seen an increase in inquiries over the past week and suspect the warm weather is playing a part,” he said.

Network Rail advises passengers to only use the services if “absolutely necessary”, and Londoners have been advised not to travel on Monday and Tuesday.

Transport staff in the capital spent yesterday inspecting the underground network’s air-conditioning units and the air-cooling units of the double-decker buses to ensure they were working properly. In Hampshire, sandblasters have spread sand on the roads to prevent damage from heavy vehicles as the asphalt begins to melt. Malthouse confirmed that transport services are facing “significant disruption”.

Sun scorched grass in Greenwich Park, southeast London, on Saturday.
Sun scorched grass in Greenwich Park, southeast London, on Saturday. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Health experts have also warned that older hospitals could get uncomfortably hot. Dr Claire Bronze, an A&E consultant in London, said: “We are concerned about how [the heat] will affect patients and staff. Many buildings are without air conditioning or windows that open – so they are extremely hot.

These warnings were echoed by James Bowen, director of policy for the National Association of Head Teachers, who urged the government to improve the condition of school buildings. “As we’ve learned during the pandemic, too many people are simply not fit for purpose, with even basic ventilation being a challenge in some cases,” he said.

Some schools will be completely closed on Monday and Tuesday while others have shortened their day or asked parents to send children to class with physical education kits or other cool clothes. Other schools have chosen to cancel events such as sports days.

As wildfires ravaged large swaths of southern Europe, UK fire chiefs have warned similar scenes in England and Wales are ‘almost inevitable’ as new data reveals the number of epidemics had already reached record levels.

More than 350 wildfires have been reported in the UK so far this year, eclipsing last year’s previous record of 247 in less than six months.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has said that people living on the outskirts of cities, close to farmers’ fields, are most at risk from wildfires and that the dry, dry landscapes of UK national parks can also put people at risk.

Paul Hedley, the NFCC’s national wildfire manager and Northumberland Fire Chief, said firefighters across England and Wales were on the call.

“Services are rising: they are preparing to respond, but I think it is almost inevitable that we will see more large wildfires in the next five or six days,” Hedley told the Observer.

Police reported a series of wildfires on moorland near Manchester yesterday which they believe were started deliberately.

Many forest fires are started by disposable barbecues, campfires or candles in flying lanterns. Some national parks have issued public space protection orders, effectively banning the use of disposable barbecue grills, which can get so hot that, even without a spark, they can start fires in peat-rich soil.


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