Plumes of dust blown in from desert sandstorms in the Sahara have contributed to “high” and “very high” levels of air pollution, with London, East Anglia, Kent and Essex expected to be the worst hit areas.

The elderly and people suffering from heart or lung conditions have been advised to avoid strenuous activity.

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “A large amount of sand and dust was swept up by storm winds in the desert, around 2,000 miles away in northwest Africa.

“The airborne particles were blown north to the UK, where they combined with our warm air and were deposited during 

Air quality levels are expected to return to normal by the weekend.

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