The busy bank holiday is expected to bring the warmest weather of the year so far, with temperatures expected to hit 25C today.

But as many people flock to beaches, parks and beer gardens, one of the country’s top scientists has warned that the next two weeks are critical for our way out of the pandemic.

After weeks of being stuck indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions and recent heavy downpours, millions of Britons have taken advantage of the weekend sunshine.

The seaside town of Blackpool has been longing for tourists and good weather, following a dreadful year economically because of the pandemic.

On Sunday it was packed, with people travelling from far and wide to enjoy the town’s attractions.

Andy Hygate, operations director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, told Sky News: “We’ve seen how busy it has been this weekend and this is what a seaside resort should be like – people enjoying themselves, having ice creams on the beach.

“To see that back and everything that supports the economy and the employment in the town is really important to us and the wider resort.”

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Scientists are still urging caution, however, as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise, fuelled by the variant first identified in India.

Professor Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told Sky News: “We’re on a knife-edge.

“We could go either way with this new variant.

“Either it could run away as it did before Christmas, which would be extremely serious and we’d have to have more restrictions, or potentially it could be contained. But that does mean everybody needs to be cautious right now.

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Professor ‘anxious’ about growing COVID cases

“Everybody’s behaviour could potentially make the difference.

“So the key thing at the moment is for people to do their socialising outdoors, and if people are inside, make sure windows and doors are open.”

Many people who had summer holidays cancelled or couldn’t book because of travel restrictions, opted to use this weekend for a staycation.

Natalie Armstrong and her family travelled from Birmingham to Blackpool on Friday.

She said: “(The pandemic lockdown) been awful for everyone – the kids have been stuck in the house with the same routines, so it’s really nice to finally get away with all the family this weekend.

“We’re making sure we’re following all the rules, hand sanitising, wearing our face masks, but it’s just nice to finally do something a bit normal.”

Jamie Pye, who was also in Blackpool, said: “It’s amazing to be back and do things.

“For so long we haven’t been able to see friends and family.

“I forgot what it was like to be in a pub, go to a football match – it’s like a new world again.”