Britons have been warned not to break COVID rules and ‘blow’ the progress made tackling the virus – ahead of what could be the UK’s hottest March day on record.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued the warning in a tweet on Tuesday night, saying: "Let’s enjoy the sun but let’s do it safely. We have come so far, don’t blow it now."
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he hoped people would take advantage of the "beautiful weather" to play sport or exercise as lockdown restrictions were eased on Monday, while also emphasising the country should still "proceed with caution".
The UK’s highest March temperature in 53 years was recorded in Kew Gardens, London, on Tuesday afternoon where it reached 24.5C (76.1F), according to the Met Office.
Met Office forecaster Alex Burkhill said it was a "possibility" that Wednesday’s temperatures could surpass the March record of 25.6C (78F), set in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.
People across England are now allowed to meet in groups of up to six or as two households in parks and gardens, with outdoor team sports also able to resume.
The warm weather saw people flock to the seaside and parks on Tuesday to enjoy the sunshine with family and friends for the first time in months.
Footage and images, including on social media, showed neighbours sharing a drink with one another in gardens, groups picnicking in green spaces, surfers on beaches and children in playgrounds.
However, some also showed large numbers congregating, social distancing rules being ignored, people leaving behind huge amounts of rubbish in parks, bonfires left to burn and even a scuffle.
Hundreds of people descended on Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield, Manchester, with one resident telling the Manchester Evening News: "The rule of six has gone out the window."
Footage posted online captured a brawl, dozens of people drinking and dancing in big parties, and leaving behind piles of rubbish at Nottingham Arboretum.
Assistant chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Steve Cooper, told Nottinghamshire Live: "We are really disappointed by the behaviour we saw there last night. Now is not the time to act like the rules have been totally withdrawn.
"We are near the end and the vast majority of the people there won’t have been vaccinated and they could now end up spreading the virus in the community – that’s what we are trying to stop. It is not stopping people having fun it is the consequences of the virus."
The Metropolitan Police added to the caution with its tweet: "Easing of lockdown. Let’s take this next step safely."
One person posted an image of overflowing bins in Heaton Park in Newcastle upon Tyne and wrote on Twitter: "Looks like there’s been a festival, certainly not responsible groups of 6!"
However, this week’s blue skies and sunny climate are not expected to last.
Temperatures are expected to drop in the east of England from Thursday, and only "scraping into double figures", Mr Burkhill said.
Wet weather is forecast for Easter Sunday, with the chance of sleet or snow in Scotland and the far north of England.