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All outdoor play areas in Stevenage will be closed from today (Monday 11 January) to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The decision to close play areas comes after a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in Stevenage, including in those aged 0-11 years and 20-39 years old. On 6 December, the rates for 0-11 year olds was 63.3 per 100,000 and by 1 January this had risen to 429.4.

The closure will be for a period of four weeks, after which the decision will be reviewed.

Councillor John Gardner, 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 whilst maintaining social distancing.

“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.”

Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “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.”

Outdoor gyms are also closed. There are notices on play areas and outdoor gyms to notify people of their closure.

© 2021 Stevenage Borough Council