Car Free Day
London Play statement on COVID 19
17 March 2020
We have heard from a number of people wondering whether or not to proceed with planned play street events and other play sessions in light of the escalating Coronavirus pandemic.
We understand the very legitimate concerns people will have about organising or promoting any sort of public gathering in the coming weeks and months.
So far, the government has not yet decided to close schools; but everyone has been advised to avoid 'non-essential' social contact. Adventure playgrounds remain open as do most community play settings that we are aware of.
Government guidance may change at short notice but until then, our advice is that residents and community groups should make their own judgements about whether they feel comfortable proceeding with planned play street sessions or other events. Outdoor events are generally thought to carry a lower risk of transmission than indoor ones, but if you do decide to go ahead with an event, you should make sure you consider how to limit close physical contact between participants and follow up to date public health advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Local community networks have never been more important than they are now.
Every street will have vulnerable older residents, or those with underlying health conditions. Others may have residents who are self-isolating and many may eventually include residents who are ill. If – or most likely, when – schools are closed, parents may need additional support. Children are thought to be less at risk from this disease than others. But they will suffer. If schools are closed those entitled to free school meals are at risk of going hungry. Many more children may be left to fend for themselves while parents work. And opportunities for playing with their friends will become very limited.
In London especially, many people live far from their families. We will all need to support one another through this period. There are many people starting to organise hyper local community networks from scratch to support one another. The good news is that for those running existing play streets, those networks, or the beginnings of them, will already exist. We would encourage you to broaden them to include all residents who need help or simply contact with the outside world.
For those who are starting the journey of organising a play street, don’t stop! We hope that by the summer things may have subsided somewhat and in the meantime, you might like to consider developing a ‘virtual’ play street network of neighbours – collecting phone numbers and/or email addresses or creating street-based Facebook groups – that can look forward to coming together in person when the time is right.
Independently of what the government says or does, we can all play our part in keeping ourselves and our communities safe and minimising the negative impacts of this virus on vulnerable adults and children.
Power to you all, from everyone at London Play