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MPs have expressed anger after the government appeared to suggest rules on children playing outdoors were stricter than for adults exercising – forcing Matt Hancock to clarify that all youngsters are allowed to play outside.
The controversy arose over a statement from the Cabinet Office which suggested children should not meet another child for exercise and that they should use playgrounds only if they did not have a private garden. Currently, adults are allowed to meet one other person outdoors for daily exercise.
The row started after two young children were ordered home by police officers for building a snowman and told to play in their own garden – despite not having one.
Downing Street said on Wednesday it was fine for children to play outside, after Tim Greany and his sons Bo, six, and Wren, eight, told BBC Newsround they had been “upset and annoyed” at the officers’ response while playing near their home in London.
There was confusion after the Cabinet Office issued a statement saying: “Playgrounds are primarily for use by children who do not have access to private outdoor space, and while parents, guardians or carers are allowed to take children to a playground for exercise, they must not socialise with other people while there.”
Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the health select committee, said the advice was overly officious. “I’m in the ‘go harder and faster’ camp on Covid but it does seem over-zealous to allow two adults to exercise outdoors but not two children (who face much lower risk from Covid but probably greater mental health risks from lockdown),” he tweeted.
The Tory MP Steve Baker, a key figure in the Covid Recovery Group of MPs who are demanding a swifter end to lockdown, told Sky News: “This unabashed vehemence in the expression of state power beyond the limits of the law would be comical if it were not for real. As the government succeeds in vaccinating vulnerable, incidents like this only underscore the need to reclaim our lives once and for all.”
Playing Out, a group which ordinarily encourages parents to organise play sessions for children on their streets, said the group was asking the government to include play as essential exercise – one of the limited reasons people are allowed to leave the house under current legislation.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, who was recently pictured playing rugby with his children in the park, told Sky News on Thursday that the same rules applied to children and adults. “The rules are really clear. Exercise outdoor with members of your own family or one other person one to one, that’s OK.
“Of course going to the park with your kids to play rugby is not only allowed, but perfectly reasonable and totally fine.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Ministers backtrack on advice only children without gardens can play outside | Coronavirus