05:20PM, Wednesday 20 January 2021
The Royal Borough’s cabinet member for health has asked the Goverment to review the opening of outdoor play areas during lockdown.
Playgrounds have been allowed to stay open during this lockdown, however in March they were closed.
Speaking at the health and wellbeing board on Tuesday afternoon, Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) said: “A number of residents have been in touch and asked ‘why aren’t play areas closed?’.
He said he had checked with the Government and been told there has been a ‘risk-benefit calculation’ over whether to keep play areas open ‘to enable health and wellbeing and mental health’ for children.
He added: “What is imperative is that within play areas people need to socially distance. You can’t just go in a play area and have a pile on and everyone gets on the slide and the roundabout.”
He said he has asked this guidance to be reviewed as he wasn’t ‘entirely comfortable’ with the Government direction as the new variant is more transmissible.
Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) asked if the council knew how long the virus could last on play equipment or on masks.
Cllr Carroll, who is an epidemiologist and is on the UK’s vaccines task force, said the virus does struggle in outdoor areas but that in some cases coronavirus can stay on a surface for 24-72 hours. He said the important thing about play areas was that they were outside and natural ventilation, the air, should keep it moving.
“It’s a bit of an unknown but that is why I want it to be reviewed and I am asking and challenging the question, should we not during this period be defaulting to a more cautious guidance because we don’t fully know the answer to that question,” he added.
Tessa Lindfield, strategic director for Public Health Berkshire, said when people are contacted through the test and trace system they are asked for places they have been. She said playgrounds had not come up as a ‘common exposure’ area in the data but she said she knows it is a ‘theoretical risk’ and one to bear in mind.
The meeting also took a public question which asked if there would be increased testing in the Royal Borough.
Ms Lindfield said lateral flow testing would be set up and the focus would be on people who need to leave home to go to work.
She added: “The logistics of the programme are significant and we are receiving assistance from some military planners, we are hoping to submit our plans to the department of health and social care by next week for implementation as soon as possible.”
Kevin McDaniel, Royal Borough director of children’s services added that that all secondary schools in the borough had set up lateral flow testing facilities for staff and children who are attending.
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