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I'm writing to you, as one parent to another, to please reopen outdoor playgrounds.
It feels like children have been forgotten about entirely. I don’t think that we can continue to lock up children and deprive them of their right to develop and play. I understand that the reason play parks have not yet been opened are due to difficulties in maintaining social distancing and that Covid can stay on surfaces and infect someone who then comes into contact with that surface.
The problem with the virus on surfaces... it's based on artificial conditions in labs. The conditions that samples are kept in are:.
• In the dark.
• At room temperature (constantly near 18-22C)
• Damp but not wet, won't wash away.
• Dampness is with a pH neutral substance (just water)
• The medium that the virus is suspended in is itself sterile: no other microbes on a pre-sterilised surface, no competing microbes there.
• No rubbing and brushing & bumping the surface while waiting 3 hours or 3 days or however long before testing.
In other words, the surface is kept in conditions totally unlike real life outdoor playground surfaces in the UK. On top of that, some of the experiments are based on detection with rt-PCR tests only: these detect genetic material but they can't tell if the virus is viable; the sample needs to be cultured for that.
The risk of transmission from fomites is very low. Hand washing does little to stop respiratory virus transmission (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20065250v1 And that Covid-19 transmission between or from children is very low (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.20.20108126v1
So perhaps the government is worried as young children are notorious for putting everything in their mouths?
It's worth bearing in mind the need to get an infectious dose to actually be infected. 3 half-degraded particles won't affect anyone. The specificity of 15 minutes talking to someone is based on an infectious dose of around 1000 particles. Not all children lick the swings, they grow out of that pretty quickly. A quick 99.9% alcohol spray of rails if you have a licker would work fine, but only even necessary if there's an infectious dose on the bit being licked, which is vanishingly unlikely.
My point to prove the inequality for this is that people going shopping will touch hand rails on stairs or escalators, buttons on lifts, ticket machines and products in shops. If it were that infectious in that way, we would be seeing bigger numbers of infection from the start of easing lockdown. Thankfully that hasn't happened. Play parks are outside and children are the lowest risk with their chances of dying from Covid in the same league as being struck by lightning.
The Dutch never closed their playgrounds and under 12s aren't expected to social distance. Switzerland is among many other European countries that opened playgrounds and simply put a hand sanitiser station in.
In terms of social distancing, the simple answer is that parents can watch their children. It feels very unfair that play parks are banned altogether because the smallest amount of children are not good at social distancing. My point to prove the inequality for this is that many adults who like to play golf and go to garden centres are not good at social distancing either.
Children aren't catching Covid but they are not catching anything else either. This is so worrying for their health and how their immune systems will develop as they grow. Toddlers and young children's developmental, social, mental, physical and emotional needs are being neglected. The government hasn’t given children a second thought in all this. Out of any social groups not social distancing, there is least harm and most benefit to children having normal interactions. They need something. They don’t have a voice in all this. Someone needs to speak up for their rights.
As far as I can see, the leisure areas that are opening are the ones that are expensive and usually require a car. Libraries, Playgrounds, Children's Centres and Swimming Pools all remain shut. This clearly affects children and their parents. It is just one example of the current situation exaggerating existing inequalities.
Adults are able to shop, play golf, visit several national trust properties a week, meet friends for picnics and visit the pub beer garden. Running groups, cycling groups, even football training all for adults here but not for children. It's beginning to feel like some kind of government vendetta against toddlers, young children and those who care for them. It’s all so disproportionate and short sighted - the refusal to open up parks or any facilities for children will have massive fallout in terms of a generation’s future well-being. Almost every single family I know with young children is at breaking point now and as a parent yourself, I'm sure you are feeling the same same way.
The reopening of Zoos has only come into affect after lobbing by conservationists, zookeepers and other MP's putting pressure on the issue. I'm asking you to please do the same to allow young children to play in playgrounds again. Please, for our toddlers who are allowed to sit on a park bench but not on a park swing, and as a father yourself.
Let them play.
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