Play areas to shut for a month as hospitals struggle with COVID surge

The play area in Bray Drive is believed to be the responsibility of a developer when it built homes

The play area in Bray Drive is believed to be the responsibility of a developer when it built homes in Great Ashby as far back as 2003. - Credit: Archant

Play areas in Stevenage are set to close for at least four weeks, the borough council has announced, as hospitals in the county say they are "struggling to cope" with the number of coronavirus infections.

Stevenage Borough Council has announced that all outdoor play areas in the town will close from today, (Monday, January 11) to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure will be for a period of four weeks, after which the decision will be reviewed. Outdoor gyms are also to be closed, and there are notices on play areas and outdoor gyms to notify people of this.

The council says the decision to close play areas comes after a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in Stevenage, including in those aged 0 to 11 years and 20 to 39-years-old.

On Sunday, December 6, the rates for 0 to 11-year-olds was 63.3 per 100,000 people and by Friday, January 1 this figure had risen to 429.4 per 100,000.


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Councillor John Gardner, SBC's executive member for environment and regeneration, 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 while 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 among 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.”

Jim McManus, director of public health at Hertfordshire County Council, added: “Nobody wants to do this but the virus is circulating so much we don’t have a choice. 

"In play areas people get too close, and saliva drops, coughs and sneezes on the equipment pass to other children and adults and infect them.

“While children do not get seriously ill, they are able to pass the infection within households to others, and this means adults and older adults can get infected. 

“Our hospitals are struggling to cope.  Having exercise outdoors for now means we need to keep our distance from people not in our households.  Even for children. This is tough but we need to do it.”

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