Germany debates siestas as Europe grapples with soaring heat

Germans should follow in the footsteps of southern Europeans who have more experience with extremely hot weather, officials say.

A man wetting his head
A man cools off at a fountain near the Pantheon during a heatwave across Italy, in Rome [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

Germany is debating the need for siestas to deal as a European heatwave lifts temperatures and brings severe health warnings.

Across southern Europe, as intensely high heat is recorded, fears of death and heart attacks are rising.

While Germany has not seen the eye-watering temperatures affecting much of the continent, it has experienced mid-30 Celsius (about 90-100 Fahrenheit) temperatures, with Bavaria recording the country’s record at 38.8 Celsius (101 Fahrenheit).

Johannes Niessen, head of the BVOeGD public health officers association, said Germans should follow the practices of southern Europeans.

“Get up early, work productively in the morning, and take a siesta at midday,” he said, in an interview published by the RND network.

A woman walks during a heatwave across Italy
A woman walks in the Vatican during a heatwave across Italy  [Remo Casilli/Reuters]

On Wednesday, Italy put 23 cities on red alert as temperatures remained high across much of the country, with 45-46C (113 – 114F) expected on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia and some inland areas of Sicily likely to see temperatures in the mid-40s Celsius (110s Fahrenheit).

West of the Greek capital, Athens, wildfires burned for a third day as firefighters worked throughout the night to keep the blazes away from coastal refineries.

While Spain’s heatwave appears to be subsiding, coastal waters hit record-high temperatures.

People cool off with fans
Some use fans to cool off and umbrellas to shelter from the sun as they queue to enter the Pantheon, during a heatwave across Italy [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

On Tuesday, German health minister Karl Lauterbach said a siesta was “certainly no bad proposal”, but cautioned that employers and workers should negotiate on daytime naps together.

A government spokesperson said on Wednesday that these initiatives had to be “taken very seriously” against the backdrop of a “massive change in the summer temperatures”.

The spokesperson added that some workplaces, including those outdoors, faced serious challenges due to extreme weather conditions.

“I do see this as a serious topic which will concern us for the coming years.”

The World Meteorological Organisation warned that the heatwave in the Northern Hemisphere was not cooling down and is set to intensify, increasing the risk of deaths.

Scientists have warned that the effects of climate change will make heatwaves more frequent, severe and deadly.

Extreme temperatures have also affected the United States and Asia.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies