BRUSSELS – Much of northwest Europe is basking in unusually warm weather on Wednesday, prompting many people to throw caution to the wind despite a worrying uptick in coronavirus cases in parts of the continent.
Temperatures in Belgium, which is facing a resurgence of the virus, have never been so high so early in the year, while those in England, where restrictions are being loosened following a dramatic fall in new cases, could on Wednesday nudge the all-time March high.
In Belgium, the mercury has hit 24.5 degrees Celsius (76 Fahrenheit), prompting thousands of people to head to beaches and parks. The fine weather is expected to continue until Friday and the start of the Easter weekend.
Good news for the 11.5 million Belgians craving sun after a gloomy winter, but a real worry for the government struggling to deal with a third wave of infections.
Though it's proven that the virus is far less easy to catch outdoors, there are worries that traveling could lead rise to more infections.
In response to the number of passengers on its trains, Belgium's national rail company, SNCB, has been forced to activate a “stop-and-go” system to prevent travelers in several train stations from boarding packed-out trains.
Currently, residents in Belgium are banned from traveling abroad but can move freely across the country. A night-time curfew is in place.
Many did not resist the appeal of a grand day out to North Sea beaches, especially after the government decided last week to shut down schools for an extra week before the Easter school break in a bid to slow infections.