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So, Can We Go To Playgrounds Or Not?

Grazia logo Grazia 12/02/2021 Emily Watkins
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Another day, another Lockdown row. This time, the bone of contention is playgrounds – more specifically, can we visit playgrounds, and are playgrounds safe?

Unlike the first lockdown back in March 2020, playgrounds have been open (for the most part, at least; it’s up to individual owners and operators to decide whether they feel their facilities can be used safely). The latest government guidance, published January 28th, is clear that ‘outdoor public playgrounds can remain open’, but is less transparent about who the facilities are for.

According to the official advice, ‘Playgrounds are primarily open for use by children who do not have access to private outdoor space, like their own garden’ – so can kids who do have a garden pop to the swings? The issue had been rumbling along in the general spirit of ‘not-sure-probably-fine’ until brothers Bo and Wren Greany, six and eight, were told to go home by police after working on a snowman in a park. Their dad said the family had been advised to stick to their own garden (though their London flat doesn’t have one), and suddenly we’re all getting flashbacks to the two poor women who were fined and then un-fined for walking with peppermint tea back in January.

When Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked to clarify this morning in a Sky News interview, he emerged as pro-playground – maybe unsurprising, as he’s been photographed played rugby with his own kids in the park recently. “That is the first I have heard of that”, said Hancock of Snowman-gate. “The rules are really clear which is that exercise outdoor with members of your own family or one other person one-to-one – where you keep that social distance – that is OK. We specifically kept that in the rules.”

As parents around the country began to feel very confused, angry and panicked, a government spokesperson stepped in to clarify things.

The told the Guardian: “Going to the park with the kids is not only allowed but perfectly reasonable,” he said. “We have been clear that exercise is allowed under the national restrictions. That continues to be the case, and the reason we ensured playgrounds stayed open was to ensure that children continued to use them for exercise purposes.”

Asked whether the rules were different for families who have gardens, he added: “It is reasonable for any families to take their children to the park and to use playgrounds. As we’ve said previously, people should keep 2 metres apart if they’re in a circumstance where there are other people around, playgrounds being one example. They should keep that 2-metre rule. But again, we’re asking people not to go outside for socialising.”

So, it looks like the case for playgrounds being safe is edging ahead. But just because you can, does that mean you should be taking little ones to the Big Slide Round The Corner? While schools aren’t in session, nurseries are still open – as such, parents of younger children might see mixing in a playground and an educational setting as much of a muchness.

Then, there’s mental health to consider – we’re all learning to balance what is bad for our bodies (virus) with what’s good for our brains: fresh air, a change of scene, even friendly faces (from a distance). So are playgrounds safe? It seems like so many facets of daily life in 2021, the legal facts have been (somewhat) clarified – having established that yes, you can go to a playground - but it remains your decision whether you do.


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