Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council will reopen over 90 of the Borough’s play parks on Friday 10th July after almost three months of closure due to Covid-19.
Following Northern Ireland Executive guidance, most of the 90+ play parks across the Borough are set to reopen on 10th July on a pre-covid basis with a focus on user self-regulation. That means parents and guardians are required to take responsibility for social distancing and appropriate supervision.
While signs will be up in all play parks reminding users of the new rules, parents are advised to read the guidelines beforehand so they are prepared and can pre-warn their children of the new rules which may mean longer waiting times for equipment and advising them on how to practice safe social distancing and hygiene standards.
There are some new instructions that parents and children must adhere to – such as only one family member accompanying a child – so it is very important that guardians read the guidance before visiting any park so that everyone can follow the new rules.
Everyone will be expected to wash and sanitise their hands before and after using a play park and children are asked to try not to touch their face while playing. Children in particular will have to be told to social distance from people outside of their bubble, and no eating or drinking will be allowed in any play park.
While it should go without saying, if a parent or anyone in the family is unwell then no member of the household should enter the play park.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Kevin Savage, commented:
“We have invested a lot in our Play Strategy, so I think parents already know that we value children’s play, but we also value everyone’s health so it’s important that we all keep within the guidelines. Staying safe is everyone’s social responsibility. Following the guidance and being safety-conscious is the best way to protect your family and everyone else’s.
“While permission to reopen play parks is a welcome move by the Executive, I would remind parents that play equipment is shared, so there is still a risk. In an effort to minimise these risks, parents may wish to use wipes or PPE, which is great, but I would urge you to please bring your litter home to be disposed of there.
“During Covid-19 when the play parks were closed we were delighted to see that natural play in our parks and open spaces (by families in their bubbles) has increased across the Borough. We would encourage families to continue to embrace our parks and open spaces to make use of natural play opportunities to boost the health of children and adults alike for the foreseeable future.”
PlayBoard, the lead agency for play in Northern Ireland have been working closely with councils to support the reopening play parks. Speaking about the reopening Alan Herron, PlayBoard Director of Service Delivery and Development said:
“Play is a fundamental part of children lives, providing opportunities to develop physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, establish new friendships and develop new skills.”
Commenting on the impact of the lockdown on play Alan said:
“Research currently being undertaken by PlayBoard has shown that the period of lockdown has had a significant impact in restricting children’s play and we welcome the reopening of play parks as a further step back towards normality.”
With regard to the level of Covid-19 transmission risk in play parks, Alan said:
“Emerging scientific evidence suggests that the level of Covid-19 risk to children, particularly in outdoor locations such as play parks is low in comparison to other groups in society. Providing play parks do not get excessively busy and that the guidance is adhered to, the level of risk should be low”.
A copy of the guidance can be downloaded from the PlayBoard NI website at www.playboard.org.
PlayBoard is currently looking for children and young people to complete a survey on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on their play. The survey is open to those aged 5-18 years of age and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PBYourVoice.
Outdoor gyms, MUGAs, skate park and pump tracks are also due to open on Friday 10th July. User guidance is available on the council website for the safe reopening of all these outdoor facilities: armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk/coronavirus/#leisureamenities.