A London council cordoned off the football goals at a local park with metal barriers and put up signs warning the public not to touch outdoor activities equipment.
Southwark council reportedly took the measures preventing families from playing football outside despite recommendations from many that physical activity is crucial to wellbeing during lockdown.
The Telegraph reported on Thursday that the council’s signs on the cordoned-off goals at Warwick Gardens, Peckham, warned people to “try to avoid touching the gates, hoops, hoop nets, backboards, goals, fences or posts to minimise transmission.”
This is despite Southwark having cases among the lower numbers compared to other London boroughs when Britain’s second lockdown restrictions were put in place by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Nov. 5.
It had 53 new cases and was down at the twentieth spot out of 32 London boroughs, with Havering being the highest with 119 cases and Kensington and Chelsea the lowest with 16.
Responding to a request for comment on the move by Southwark council, a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport said in an emailed statement that “given households can continue to exercise together” councils should take a “proportionate approach” around access to public facilities.
“We urge people to keep fit as much as possible during the current national measures and have been clear that grassroots sport will return as soon as it is safe to do so,” he added.
Southwark Council had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this report.
Its move highlights a wider debate on the specific implementation of curbs on sport and outdoor activity, which even Cabinet Minister Michael Gove had to earlier in the month apologise for misinterpreting.
The government has refused, however, to water down the restrictions even for exceptions on outdoor sports such as tennis and golf.
Quizzed on the issue by MPs just before the current lockdown Boris Johnson said, “I must apologise to my honourable friend for not being able to offer the House a huge list of exemptions to the rules that we are setting out, because once you unpick at one thing, alas, the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised.
“That’s why I want everyone to work together for the next four weeks to get the R [transmission rate] under control so we can open things up again in time for December.”
Physical and Mental Health
Meanwhile, sports advocates have emphasised the importance of sports-related activity to both the physical and mental health of younger people.
“Maintaining access to sport and good quality Physical Education is vital to young people’s health and wellbeing,” Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust Ali Oliver said in an emailed statement.
“During the first national lockdown almost half of young people became less active. It led to children becoming physically unfit and struggling with their mental health,” he said.
“Staying active and engaged in sport is one essential way we can help mitigate the damage being done to a generation of young people during these challenging times,” he added.
Under England’s second lockdown restrictions currently in place to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus households and bubbles can meet outdoors and, as long as social distancing is observed, individuals can meet one other person from another household.
Simon Veazey contributed to this report.