The prime minister will miss the second Cobra meeting about the Code Red heatwave because Boris Johnson is reportedly “preparing to party” at Chequers instead.
Record breaking high temperatures – threatening thousands of deaths and a catastrophic impact on the country’s infrastructure – are expected on Monday and Tuesday (July 18 and 19).
Downing Street has confirmed that Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse will chair today’s (Saturday) Cobra civil contingencies meeting for the second time, after the caretaker PM – who also missed Thursday’s Cobra meeting – is reported to be hosting a party at Chequers tomorrow (Sunday).
Reacting to the news, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Boris Johnson is preparing to party while Britain boils. Missing in action again. “Where’s the plan to keep people safe at work, on transport, in schools, hospitals and care?
“If he still can’t take the responsibility of the job, he should leave right now.”
‘People’s lives are at risk’ from heatwave, warns Met Office
For the first time in British history, a red warning has been issued by the Met Office for exceptionally high temperatures with meteorologists saying there is an 80% chance the UK’s record temperature – 38.7C set in Cambridge in 2019 – will be topped. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has upped its warning from level three to level four, designating the heatwave a “national emergency”.
UKHSA state a level four warning is issued “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system…At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, not just in high risk groups.”
The Met Office has urged people to take “suitable measures” to help protect vulnerable neighbours and relatives” with spokesperson Grahame Madge warning that “if the forecast is as we think it will be in the red warning area, then people’s lives are at risk.
“This is a very serious situation.”
Official figures show that two far less significant heat events last year caused more than 1,600 excess deaths. Concerns are raised about this heatwave which the Met office has described as “absolutely unprecedented”.
The red warning covers areas of England from below London to Greater Manchester and Leeds, with an amber warning in place for other parts of England and Wales.
Network Rail has advised people to postpone journeys and confirmed trains will be running at reduced speed given fears the heat will buckle rails. The NHS has cancelled operations while some schools will close early or be closed altogether to protect children and staff.
People are also being warned of the risks of melting roads that could leave people stranded or stuck in congestion while further warnings include water shortages, wildfires, smog, and risks to pets and farm animals.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has already held a special meeting with leaders of the NHS, Met Police, London Ambulance Service, London Fire Brigade, Transport for London and councils to plan for the historic heatwave.
Khan has warned Londoners to prepare for the expected disruption with rail and Tube lines under speed restrictions. The mayor has urged people only to travel for essential journeys.
“The extreme temperatures London is expecting pose a danger to everyone, regardless of age,” tweeted Khan.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson is preparing for his “farewell” party to be held at Chequers tomorrow (Sunday).
The NHS advice for heat exhaustion and heatstroke – the latter “needs to be treated as an emergency” – can be found here.