LONDON (AP) — Thousands in Britain sought refuge from the searing heat Friday, mobbing beaches and parks despite warnings to keep their distance from others amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the pandemic curbing Britons’ ability to travel abroad, those in need of sea air after months in lockdown pushed the rules on staying far apart. Parks also were crowded as people sought shade in temperatures predicted to rise to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — or maybe more.

Last week, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution carried out 30 rescues on just one beach on a single day in Cornwall.

“The beaches across the whole of the southwest are extremely busy at the moment with both locals who are holidaying at home this year and an influx of visitors to the region,” said Kitty Norman, a water safety expert at the charity. “The sheer volume of people making social distancing tricky is one thing to be conscious of before planning your trip to the beach.”

The mercury was also on the rise in France, where the national meteorological service Meteo-France placed 45 departments, including Paris and its inner suburbs, on orange alert — meaning that the public should be vigilant for a heatwave. Temperatures are set to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country.

Britain’s Met Office warned the public to take precautions against dehydration and sunburn and be ready for a dramatic rise in temperatures following a rather cool week.

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Public Health England issued a heat-health warning and advised people sheltering indoors to close curtains on windows facing the sun.

“This summer, many of us are spending more time at home due to COVID-19,” said Ishani Kar-Purkayastha, a consultant at Public Health England. “A lot of homes can overheat, so it’s important we continue to check on older people and those with underlying health conditions, particularly if they’re living alone and may be socially isolated.”

Britain’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 2002, with last year having seeing the hottest day on record at 38.7 Celsius (101.6 Fahrenheit) in Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25.

Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed.

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