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Heatwave adds to health alert as Europe masks up to prevent COVID

REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

By Paola Luelmo

A heatwave hit Europe on Thursday just as Madrid made wearing masks compulsory to prevent a surge in coronavirus infections, and Julian Martinez said his beard wasn't making it any easier to keep his face covered in the heat. But the 60-year-old Spanish civil servant wasn't taking his mask off.

"I've been wearing a mask for so many days in the heat that it doesn't bother me that much," he said.

Temperatures soared across Europe on Thursday, heading above 40° Celsius (104° F) in places, adding extreme heat to the health warnings of a continent already taking fresh measures to rein in a potential second wave of coronavirus infections.

The heat undoubtedly made it more difficult to wear face masks in the Spanish capital. Spain's meteorological agency said the hot air was coming from Africa and would last until Saturday.

In Rome, where the temperature hit 38°C on Thursday and was set to go to 39°C on Friday, authorities told the elderly and children not to go out in the hottest part of the day.

The Swiss weather agency advised people to drink plenty of water, eat cool dishes and avoid physical exertion.

On Cyprus, the heatwave hit earlier this week, with temperatures already up in the 40s since Monday.

"It’s really hot. We’re not used to it. We've generally got a temperate climate in Brittany,” said Mael Delaunay, 19, enjoying a cool drink with friends on a terrace by the sea in the town of Quiberon in the Brittany region of Northern France.

"They say with global warming, Brittany is going to become like the Cote d’Azur.”

Back in Madrid, the uncomfortable combination of heat and face masks was driving home the importance of following health advice.

"Your breath gets very warm -- your glasses, there are lots of problems," said Ana Gonzalez.

"But you put it all aside when you think that it's protection and there's no choice about wearing it. You forget about the face mask and that's it. It's the only way. At least, that's what I do.” (Reuters)

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