Councils have been accused of heavy-handed approach to lockdown measures by closing playgrounds.
Dozens of playgrounds have been shut and sealed off around the country by council leaders worried about families gathering together and ignoring social distancing measures.
The move comes despite the government ruling the play areas, which was shut during the first lockdown last year, could stay open this time.
It raises fears that children are being deprived of places to place safely outdoors at a time in lockdown measures are severely restricting the amount of time parents can take them outside.
Playground have been closed in Essex, Hampshire, Sussex and Hertfordshire, where local authorities have "ongoing concerns" over high Covid infection rates in their areas. Colchester Borough Council shut a large playground in the town centre after officials recorded 110 People using the play equipment at one time. It had already close the town's two skate parks due to fears social distancing guidelines were not being followed.
Cllr Martin Goss said "While many residents are following government advice, sadly there are a few who are putting lives at risk and not adhering to social distancing and gathering rules."
Stevenage Borough Council has also shut several playgrounds, and Mid Sussex District Council has closed half it’s 123 playgrounds, while carrying out weekly sanitising of those left open.
Brighton and Hove City Council has issued warnings that may close playgrounds if residents continue to gather in large numbers, urging people to use them only for short spells.
Phelim Mac Cafferty, the council leader said we don’t want to close our playgrounds, but our concern is that the new strain is spreading at a worrying speed, they’re becoming unsafe. This is because too many people are using them to congregate and socialise." The closures have left parents divided, with some criticising the decision while others question why not all sites have been closed, as they were last spring.
Rebecca Reilly-Cooper a mother of two from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, told The Sunday Telegraph: "I’ve got two tiny children, a tiny house, no real garden and the only way we can survive lockdown is going to the swings each day. Children desperately need to play and exercise."
Children’s welfare charities, including Playing Out, have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to provide care and guidance. Alice Ferguson, co-director of Playing Out, said it raised concerns after receiving reports of police ordering families to leave playgrounds and go home.
Yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, suggested he would back further coronavirus measures, as he said "the tougher the restrictions now, the quicker we get the virus back under control. [The NHS] is under strain at the moment and we need to do whatever we can to reduce that strain, particularly in the next few weeks, which are going to be critical."
© The Play Inspection Company 2021
Design by DualMode Digital