Council to shut play areas for over a month in response to rising COVID cases

George Martin
·3 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: Children maintain social distancing measures while playing in the playground at Earlham Primary School, which is part of the Eko Trust on June 10, 2020 in London, England. As part of Covid-19 lockdown measures, Earlham Primary School is teaching smaller ‘bubbles’ of students, to help maintain social distancing measures. School staff have put into place many safety measures such as corridor signage for a one way system, regular supervised handwashing, temperature checks on arrival and enhanced cleaning regimes to keep pupils and staff as safe as possible. Bubbles of pupils are limited to six and each have their own well-ventilated space. The Government have announced it is set to drop plans for all English primary pupils to return to school before the end of the summer. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Children maintain social distancing measures in a London playground. (Getty)

A council is planning to shut play areas for at least a month in response to a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

Stevenage Borough Council said all outdoor play areas in the Hertfordshire town will close from Monday 11 January onwards to curb infection rates in the area.

Outdoor gyms will also be shut under the measures, with the council saying that the decision will be reviewed after four weeks.

Notices will be placed outside all affected play areas and gyms to inform residents of the changes, the council said in a statement on its website.

A football lies on the empty playground of a primary school in east London, which has moved into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions as a result of soaring case rates. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Stevenage Borough Council said it was concerned about infections among children. (Getty)

A spokesperson for the council told the newspaper that a rise in infections among young people in the town had led to the emergency measures.

Councillor John Gardner said: “This was a difficult decision to make, as we know that play areas are a way to entertain children, especially when they’re not currently at school.

“But it is really important that we act now to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Our parks and open spaces remain open and there is plenty of space for people to exercise and enjoy the fresh air whilst maintaining social distancing.

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“Large numbers of families have been visiting play areas which is making it difficult for people to keep their distance from those not in their household, so it’s important that we temporarily close them to help keep everyone safe.

“Rates have risen rapidly – including amongst those most likely to use the play areas – and we need to do all we can to keep rates of infection low and prevent Lister Hospital becoming overwhelmed. So please stick to the rules to keep yourself and others safe.”

Yahoo News UK has contacted Stevenage Borough Council for comment.

It comes as the number of younger people affected by COVID has in creased in recent weeks as the new variant continues to push cases up in all age groups.

Prof Russell Viner, president of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, warned: "As cases in the community rise there will be a small increase in the number of children we see with COVID-19.

“But the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only.”

Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has also warned that the average age of coronavirus patients is trending downwards.

He told the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee last week: "In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number.

"If you look across other regions of England the issue is that coronavirus is once again on the rise.

"In Merseyside in just the last week there has been a further 50 per cent increase in the number of COVID hospitalisations.

"So this is a very serious moment for the country and for the National Health Service.

"It’s worth remembering that this affects all ages – a quarter of the COVID admissions to hospital right now are for people aged under 55."

In the last few weeks adults aged 18-64 have accounted for 40% of daily COVID admissions to hospitals, data from Public Health England shows.

This compares to 40% for 65-84 year olds and 20% for the over-85s.

And there has been a steep rise in the numbers of people in their mid-40s to mid-60s becoming seriously ill with COVID and being admitted to intensive care units.

Watch: What is long COVID?