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Programme of safe openings for Sefton’s play areas underway

Sefton Council is now confident it has the measures in place for its play areas to start opening after being closed as part of nationwide “lockdown” restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.

Initially, the Borough’s four largest and busiest play areas, at Crosby Lakeside, Kings Gardens and Hesketh Park in Southport and Botanic Gardens in Churchtown will be open by Saturday 25 July. Others will follow on soon after.

In line with Government guidance the Council’s Green Sefton team is carrying out new risk assessments for each site and considering how to apply the guidance to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection. At the same time, these inspections are being used to identify any faulty or damaged equipment, which will be removed or disabled before re-opening.

Children will have to be accompanied and supervised by parents, guardians or carers while using play areas. Groups should not enter play areas and each child should have only one family member accompanying them.

People are expected to maintain a two-metre social distance from anyone outside their family or support bubble. And they are being asked to restrict visits to half an hour at busy times and not return for two hours, to allow everyone to have a turn.

Parents, guardians and carers should ensure their children’s hands are sanitised before and after using any play apparatus. They should also clean or sanitise seats and handles before using the equipment.

People are asked to avoid touching their faces and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or arm when a tissue is not available to prevent risk of infection. Food and drink is not permitted and visitors should take their litter home with them or place it in a litter bin away from the play area.

New signage is being erected at all playgrounds to remind users of the measures designed to keep everyone safe. A limited amount of equipment such as certain swings will have to remain out of use for the time being to enable people to maintain social distancing.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said: “Throughout this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, our priority has been to protect all our residents, which is why we have been carrying out this thorough process to ensure play areas can open safely in line with the Government’s guidelines.

“With over 100 sites, more than 2,000 pieces of equipment and a limited number of staff this is a time-consuming process that will take several weeks to complete totally.

“However, we are determined to put all the measures in place to minimise the infection risk at each location and are asking parents, guardian and carers to work with us by following the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe when they visit.”

People should not use not use play areas if they or anyone they live with has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive or if they have been advised to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service.

Cllr Moncur added: “As with each stage of the restrictions being lifted by Ministers, Sefton Council is adapting its facilities and services to meet the Government’s guidelines but this needs to be a measured and thorough process.

“And it needs to be one on which the public works with us so we can re-open and recover gradually and steadily and avoid risks to our friend and loved ones as well as avoiding the setbacks faced in other parts of the country.”