United Kingdom

Who needs Freedom Day anyway? Racegoers pack Ascot while sunworshippers soak up the raysa

Boris Johnson's downcast press conference postponing Freedom Day for another month could have brought the winter lockdown blues rolling back over England.

But instead sunworshippers soaked up the rays in parks and beaches across the country as temperatures soared to 77F (25C) ahead of 86F (30C) tomorrow.

Some donned their bikinis as they worked on their tans in Greenwich Park in east London, while others teemed into Durdle Door in Dorset for a quick swim.

Meanwhile well-heeled racegoers flocked to Berkshire in extravagant headgear as they marked the first day of the Royal Ascot.

Yet sunseekers were gearing up for a drastic change in the weather from Wednesday night as thunderstorms are forecast to rip across the country for four days.

Sunseekers enjoy the warm weather at the Fistral beach in Newquay, Cornwall, on Tuesday afternoon as the sun came out again

Some donned their bikinis as they worked on their tans in Greenwich Park in east London, while others teemed into Durdle Door in Dorset (pictured) for a quick swim

A woman enjoys the warm weather in Greenwich Park, south east London today as the temperature steadily climbed to 77F (25C)

Meanwhile well-heeled racegoers flocked to Berkshire in extravagant headgear as they marked the first day of the Royal Ascot

Despite the huge blow to summer plans, pictures showed Britons making the most of the current freedoms by heading out the house today. Pictured: Newquay in Cornwall

The PM delayed the end of England's coronavirus restrictions yesterday by up to four weeks after being warned the move could lead to thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS.

He announced the setback to the final phase of his plan to end the lockdown on Monday due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant first identified in India.

Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19, heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.

Mr Johnson said in a press conference it is 'sensible to wait just a little longer' as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to July 19, saying he is 'confident' no further delay will be necessary.

Despite the huge blow to summer plans, pictures showed Britons making the most of the current freedoms by heading out the house today.

Stunning photographs showed the country in full bloom as people enjoyed the sizzling heatwave that will come to an end this week.

Greenwich Park in east London was teaming with visitors as some sunbathed while others jogged and worked out in the shadow of the iconic Royal Observatory.

On the south coast swimmers took a dip in the bright blue English Channel in Bournemouth as surfers caught the waves nearby.

Others opted for a more relaxed day in the sun as they sunbathed on the sand and erected tents to shelter them from the scorching heat.

Stunning photographs showed the country in full bloom as people enjoyed the sizzling heatwave that will come to an end this week. Pictured: Durdle Door in Dorset

Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19, heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service. Pictured: Durdle Door in Dorset today

The PM delayed the end of England's coronavirus restrictions yesterday by up to four weeks after being warned the move could lead to thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS. Pictured: Newquay in Cornwall today

Mr Johnson said in a press conference it is 'sensible to wait just a little longer' as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to July 19, saying he is 'confident' no further delay will be necessary. Pictured: Newquay in Cornwall today

Surfers and swimmers enjoy the waves in Newquay in Cornwall on Tuesday afternoon as the sun came out ahead of thunderstorms on Wednesday night

A stunning shot shows people teaming on the beach at Fistral Bay in Newquay in Cornwall as people headed out to enjoy the sun

One hundred miles north east, racegoers flocked to the Royal Ascot in their fancy attire to watch the horses battle it out on the first day of the coveted event.

Mike and Zara Tindall led the way for glamorous racegoers as they made their first public appearance since the birth of their son Lucas.

The Queen's granddaughter, 36, and her rugby ace husband, 42, appeared in high spirits as they arrived at the races today, marking their first public outing together since they welcomed their new baby in March.

They joined Prince Edward, his wife Countess Sophie Wessex and Princess Anne at the racecourse earlier today. Prince Charles, 72, and the Duchess of Cornwall, 73, were also in attendance at the annual horseracing event.

Royal Ascot is a highlight of the British summer season and, after a year of uncertainty and lockdowns, the first day of the races today heralds the return of occasionwear for many.

Racegoers pulled out all the stops as they attended the first day of the race after 18 months of Covid restrictions, opting to wear a dazzling array of dresses, colourful face masks and over-the-top head gear.

Meanwhile the Queen , 95, an avid horse racing fan, will not make an appearance due to ongoing restrictions, marking only the second time in 69 years that she hasn't attended the event.

The monarch, whose horse King's Lynn is running in the King's Stand Stakes today, will be watching on television from Windsor Castle.

Racegoers sit socially distanced as they enjoy the races from the limited capacity crowd due to the ongoing pandemic

Racegoers walk amongst other racegoers who are sitting on benches during day one of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse

Groups of people appeared in great spirits as they headed to the races and embraced the chance to get dressed up as they posed outside the venue 

Dressed to the nines! This group of women looked nothing short of stunning in their colour coordinated white and blue frocks and statement fascinators 

Once inside, groups of friends could be seen crowding together at the pilot event, which is part of a government scheme allowing a crowd of 12,000 to gather 

Suited and booted gentlemen enjoy a glass of something cold as they watch the races today from the Royal Box at Ascot

Crowds dressed in their finery chatting in the stands ahead of the first race at Royal Ascot today 

A socially distanced crowd of well dressed guests can be seen stood in the stands keenly awaiting the start of one of the races 

One gentleman and his wife browsed their racecard before turning their attention to the first race of the day 

Guests who had dressed up to the nines chatted in between races on the first day of Royal Ascot today 

But the Britons who headed out today were wise to do so because the weather is set to turn to thunderstorms from Wednesday night.

Even yesterday, clouds were bubbling up over Wales, the Midlands and northern England as a weather front moved southwards.

The Met Office said fine and sunny weather will return 'for most places' today and it will be 'very warm' again, reaching highs of 79-81F (26-27C).

It said the very hot weather has been caused by a plume of warm air being drawn north from Spain.

But thunderstorms will arrive from Wednesday evening, lasting into Thursday and Friday, and could bring up to two inches of rain in just a few hours.

In a weather warning, the Met Office said: 'Some intense thunderstorms may occur, with torrential rain, hail, frequent lightning and strong gusty winds possible.'

Yesterday temperatures were also boiling, with the hottest – recorded at Bushy Park in Teddington, south-west London – hitting 85.4F (29.7C) while Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro managed just 73F (23C).

The previous warmest day of the year in the UK was June 2, when 28.3C (82.9F) was recorded at Northolt in north-west London.

Despite many enjoying their time in the sun, tragedy struck on the coast in Dorset yesterday as a woman fell 150ft from a cliff and died.

The victim had been climbing down cliffs behind the popular Durdle Door landmark in the afternoon. Police said she was pronounced dead at the scene and the circumstances were still being investigated.

And it also emerged yesterday a man in his 30s had died in the heatwave after falling from his kayak and being swept out to sea.

An RNLI crew launched within ten minutes of Saturday's incident at Caldy, Wirral, and an HM Coastguard helicopter was subsequently dispatched. The coastguard found the man and took him to hospital, but he died.

Mr Johnson's delaying of easing restrictions meanings limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas remain in place.

Nightclubs will also stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible for another month.

The PM left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected, but conceded 'let's be realistic, probably more likely four weeks'.

He did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.

The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted - with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.

Fans were expected to be able to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final at Wembley as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.

Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) dramatically delayed England's final lockdown-easing until July 19, after dire predictions by No10's top scientific advisers warned the Indian strain could kill up to 500 people in a day had Freedom Day went ahead as planned

Extra support to tackle a rise in cases of the Delta variant, which was first recorded in India, has been announced for more areas of the North West and Birmingham. The additional support will be introduced in Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Liverpool City Region and Warrington, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday. The package, which is the same as was announced for Greater Manchester and Lancashire last week, will see more support for surge testing, tracing, isolation support and maximising vaccine uptake after a number of cases of the Delta variant were detected in the areas

Modelling submitted to SAGE showed how many people could die each day with the rapid spread of the Indian variant. Warwick University researchers made their estimates (red) based on the assumption that the Indian variant is 56 per cent more transmissible, and that fully vaccinated people are given 90 per cent protection against hospital admission. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers (blue) used similar figures to come to their conclusions. Dotted lines number one to four show the different dates restrictions were eased

Before the pandemic took hold in Britain last spring, people made contact with around 11 others every day, on average. But that figure plummetted to around three during the depths of the Covid crisis. The figure currently stands at around 6.5, according to one study called Comix (pictured)

One chart presented by chief medic Chris Whitty today showed that hospitalisations have increased 61 per cent in a week in the North West, a trend which was predicted to follow across the rest of the country. It played a heavy hand in the decision to delay Freedom Day

Care home residents will be permitted to stay overnight with friends and family from Monday without needing to quarantine for 14 days on return to their residences.

The target of offering all adults at least one jab was also brought forward to July 19, while over 23s will be invited to book their jabs from Monday.

Addressing the nation, Mr Johnson said: 'It's unmistakably clear that vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves.

'But now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.'

Mr Johnson felt he had to delay the relaxation after at least one of his four tests to easing restrictions - that the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants - had been failed.

Officials also called into question the test to ensure infection rates do not lead to a surge in hospital admissions that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the health service could 'run into trouble' if the number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid continues on an 'exponential path'.

But he said a four-week delay 'will reduce significantly the risk of a very high peak which could cause significant problems in terms of pressure on the NHS' as well as knock-on effects.

Modelling has suggested that the timing of the reopening could make a major difference to the scale of hospital admissions

Analysis by Warwick University modellers showed how daily Covid hospital admissions could hit up to 2,500 a day, if June 21 went ahead. Scientific estimates also showed how the curve of admissions would peak at just over 1,000 a day if Freedom Day was pushed back to July 19. The team also looked at what would happen if the final unlocking took place on August 23

The Warwick team (left) and LSHTM academics (right) also looked at how many people would get infected every day (top) and how many infected patients would be admitted to hospital (bottom)

In the SPI-M modelling the researchers suggested that if the strain were 80 per cent more transmissible – the upper limit of the team's estimate – admissions could peak at more than 6,000 per day, higher even than the second wave

Modelling by the Government's Spi-M group suggested there was a possibility of hospital admissions reaching the heights of the first peak in March 2020 if the relaxation went ahead on Monday.

Experts believe the Delta variant is driving a rapid accelerations in cases, estimating it is between 40 per cent and 80 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first found in Kent.

Ministers were expected to hold a vote in Parliament on Wednesday in order for the Government to be given the legal powers to extend the restrictions.

Mr Johnson will hope the limited restrictions he has approved will reduce the scale of the rebellion on the Tory backbenches.

But he was unable to offer them - and the public - a guarantee that July 19 could be put back.

Instead he warned he could not rule out 'the possibility that there is some new variant that is far more dangerous, that kills people in a way that we currently cannot foresee or understand'.

The set-back of the delay was in part counteracted by new data from Public Health England showing vaccines are 'highly effective' in preventing hospital admission from the Delta variant.

The research suggests that both the Pfizer and Oxford jabs are just as effective at combatting admissions from the new strain, particularly so after two doses.

Protection against death was also expected to be high but further work was underway to provide concrete evidence.

Labour accused the Government of 'incompetence and indecision' as the opposition blamed the delay on border security.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: 'The only reason this delay is being introduced is because the Conservatives failed to secure the country's borders and a new variant from overseas was allowed to take hold, and failed to put in measures like proper sick pay support and surge vaccinations when needed.'

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