Lockdown-weary Britons headed to the beach and basked in 55F sunshine today as police faced a losing battle to enforce stringent rules.
The country is heading into the first weekend of spring with the lowest R rate ever, soaring vaccination figures and deaths and new cases continuing to fall.
The Department of Health recorded another 8,523 Covid infections and 345 deaths – with both measures down by roughly a third week-on-week.
More than 520,000 vaccines were also dished out, with nearly 19.2million Britons now vaccinated.
Scientists advising the Government say people have been good at following lockdown rules so far but caution that the public will need reminding of why it is important to keep following rules in the coming months.
In a paper dated February 10, the SAGE subgroup SPI-B, which is made up of experts on human behaviour, said official messaging will likely become ‘complicated’.
The success of the vaccination programme, they said, would lead many people to believe that breaking lockdown is increasingly less likely to lead to people dying.
Britain is set to enjoy a second pleasant weekend in a row with the country bathing in sunshine and temperatures up to 55F (13C).
The pleasant weather – combined with dropping case figures – are likely to result in a rush to parks as police try to ensure people are still keeping to the rules.
Forces warned the public that they would be on patrol this weekend to ensure people were still abiding by the restrictions after huge crowds were out last weekend, with Sussex Police tweeting: ‘Don’t stop now.’
People sit on Brighton beach enjoying the sunshine as police face an upwards battle to maintain Covid rules going into the weekend
People sit on the shingle beach at the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth in Hampshire today as they enjoy the sunshine
People enjoy the clear blue skies and warm sunshine as they sit on the seafront benches at Weymouth in Dorset this afternoon
Mabel Ortega and her two-year-old daughter Alba make sandcastles at Bournemouth beach in Dorset this afternoon
People take a stroll along the promenade at Bournemouth beach this afternoon as Dorset is bathed in sunshine today
People sunbathe at the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth this afternoon as Hampshire enjoys beautiful weather conditions
People enjoying the clear blue skies and warm sunshine as they exercise on the busy beach at Weymouth in Dorset today
Holly Munro and her four-year-old daughter Bella walk along Bournemouth beach in Dorset today, collecting shells
People go for a walk along the busy seafront at Weymouth in Dorset today as the third national lockdown continues
Families enjoy the sunshine on the beach at Weymouth in Dorset this afternoon while some walk their dogs
A man makes his way along River Cam in Cambridge today as he makes the most of the mild weather conditions
Two people enjoy the sun on a windy Saltcoats Beach in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, this morning
Veronica Taylor and Heather Byers, who are in a support bubble, take in the sun at the beach hut in Bournemouth today
Walkers enjoy the sunshine this morning at Saltcoats Beach in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, which is south east of Glasgow
A man takes a morning walk at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire this morning as he enjoys the pleasant weather
People make their way along the River Cam in Cambridge in the sunshine and mild weather this morning
Paddle boarders go out on the water at sunrise at Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside on the North East coast this morning
Police forces warned the public that they would be on patrol this weekend to ensure people were still abiding by the restrictions, with Sussex Police noting concerns over ‘complacency’ and saying on Twitter: ‘Don’t stop now’
The South and East of England will enjoy the best of the conditions with wall-to-wall sunshine expected tomorrow and Sunday, although temperatures are set to drop below freezing in places with a frosty start on both days.
But not all the country will enjoy the pleasant weather tomorrow, with a cloudy outlook for the North, West and Scotland along with drizzle – and 47 flood alerts or warnings still in place for England and Wales.
The weekend will follow a ‘beautiful’ day today which will bring similar temperatures to the South after fog patches clear primarily around river valleys, although cloud will remain over Northern Ireland and Scotland.
England and Wales has enjoyed a very mild week for the time of year with the warmth on a par with Malaga and Barcelona as Suffolk recorded 65.1F (18.4C) on Wednesday, which was even above the average maximum for May.
The change in conditions has been welcomed by Britons who have flocked to parks, after the Beast from the East II brought heavy snow and sub-zero daytime temperatures to much of the UK at the start of this month.
Open spaces have been busy with people doing their daily exercise, which is still permitted during the lockdown – before one-plus-one social meetings outside are allowed from March 8 and the rule of six outdoors from March 29.
West Midlands Police said it was ‘lovely weather for a walk’ and thanked people in a wood for complying with the guidelines, while South Wales Police acknowledged it could be ‘tough’ to follow the rules in good weather.
The warm, southerly airflow bringing the mild weather since the start of last week has also been responsible for dramatic, vivid red sunrises particularly in the East after blowing Saharan dust north from Africa.
Met Office meteorologist Aiden McGivern said: ‘There will be a frosty start on Friday. In the countryside, -1C to -3C is possible. There will be some fog patches as well primarily around river valleys and they won’t last long.
The Met Office said today will be a ‘beautiful’ day for the UK
‘Then, it’s looking beautiful. Once any early rain and cloud disappears from Shetland, for the vast majority it’s simply a sunny afternoon. There will be thicker cloud still across Northern Ireland as well as western Scotland.
‘But for many it’s just blue skies and feeling mild – 11C to 13C. We keep clear spells in many places heading into Friday evening, quite widely across England and Wales, eastern Scotland for a time as well.
‘But in western Scotland and Northern Ireland, we’ll see the cloud thicken – outbreaks of rain push in here overnight. That will keep temperatures up at around 6C to 7C, whilst we see another frosty start on Saturday.’
He said the weather front that is bringing cloud and rain into the North West is running into an area of high pressure – and, with no strong winds to push it along, there is some uncertainty about its exact position.
But Mr McGivern added: ‘It looks most likely to bring a wet start to the day for central and western Scotland. The rain then slowly starts to sink into parts of southern Scotland, northern England and North Wales.
‘It’s a weakening weather front, the rain tending to peter out. Nevertheless for North Wales, northern England and southern Scotland it’s grey skies and damp, mostly some drizzle over the hills and the odd shower elsewhere.
Temperatures are expected to reach 13C this weekend with sunshine expected across the South both tomorrow and Sunday
Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his exit strategy on Monday for how it is hoped England’s third lockdown will end
A runner passes the Golden Gates of Kensington Palace in West London this afternoon
Cyclists make their way through Richmond Park in South West London today with the City skyline in the background
People exercise near the The Albert Memorial at Kensington Gardens in London this afternoon
A misty sunrise over Glastonbury in Somerset this morning after temperatures dropped below zero in rural areas overnight
Frost forms on grass along the bank of the River Avon in Bristol as the sun rises over the Clifton Suspension Bridge today
A man goes for an early morning run at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire today as the mild weather continues
Two cyclists make their way through Bradgate Park in Leicestershire this morning as the mild conditions continue
A view across to the City of London from Richmond Park in South West London today, with The Shard visible on the left
A herd of deer at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire this morning as parts of the country got off to a frosty start today
An unusual fogbow near Langport in Somerset this morning. A fog bow is similar to a rainbow, but forms from sunlight interacting with water droplets contained in fog, mist or cloud. A normal rainbow sees sunlight interacting with raindrops
A group of early morning runners at Richmond Park in South West London today, which saw a misty start
A herd of deer at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire today ahead of what will be a mild and pleasant weekend for Britain
Early morning mist at Richmond Park in South West London today after temperatures fell below freezing in places overnight
The sun rises over Bradgate Park in Leicestershire this morning as parts of the country dropped below freezing overnight
A ship sailing from the North Sea passes the mouth of the River Tyne as the sun rises over South Shields Lighthouse today
The sun rises behind the Liverpool waterfront this morning at the start of what will be another pleasant day for many areas
The sun rises in front of a statue called ‘Couple’ by artist Sean Henry at Newbiggin-by-the Sea in Northumberland today
The Snow Moon sets over St Andrew’s Church in the Cambridgeshire village of Sutton-in-the-Isle this morning
The Snow Moon sets behind Burbo Bank wind farm off New Brighton beach on the Wirral in Merseyside this morning
‘Either side, plenty of sunshine for central and southern England and Wales, northern Scotland, Northern Ireland brightening up as well, and feeling once again pleasant enough in the sunny spells.
Snow Moon appears at its fullest tomorrow night
The full Snow Moon was seen setting across the UK this morning.
The moon will appear at is fullest tomorrow night, but will look large and bright on the nights either side of this.
It’s given its name because of the snowfall common around this time of year in the northern hemisphere.
It was also previously referred to the ‘hunger’ moon because of the severe weather making hunting difficult.
Stunning photographs taken this morning showed the moon setting in Cambridgeshire and Merseyside.
’11C to 13C, 9C around some of those more exposed western coasts where we’ve got the thicker cloud and the drizzle. Sunday’s looking more widely dry with some decent sunny spells.’
The mild weather has seen colourful displays of snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils. Guy Barter, of the Royal Horticultural Society, said people should enjoy the blooms while they can.
He said: ‘Now it’s turned so mild, the blooms are going to be over very fast. If people want to see the crocuses and early daffodils, they need to get out over the next 10 days or so.
‘With snowdrops, they are now on the cusp (of being over for the year) so you haven’t much time; you need to go and see them now.’
Mr Barter said the spring flowers have appeared at around the normal time, having been slowed by cold weather earlier this month.
But he added that it would be better for fruit trees if colder weather returns during March, to delay fruit flowers so they come out later in the spring when there is less likelihood of frosts.
He said: ‘We don’t want the warm weather to continue for too long – we need colder weather to return. Otherwise late frosts risk harming the blossom, leading to less fruit.’
oThe all-time monthly record temperature of 70.2F (21.2C) was set in London on February 26, 2019. The average UK daily high for February is 43.9F (6.6C), while the same figure for May is 58.6F (14.8C). Meteorological spring officially begins next Monday.