As lockdown eases – and the rules get ever more complicated – we've got the lowdown on the advice that still stands for safely navigating picnics, playdates, public transport and more.
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If you have to wear face masks on public transport, do taxis count? Your friend can come over for an al fresco playdate, but can you make her a cuppa? Granny lives in Scotland, you live in Wales, can you meet up for cuddles?
Life in post-lockdown 2020 is like solving childhood riddles ... Every. Single. Day.
So to spare your poor brain, we've rounded up the advice you still need to be aware of to protect your family – and everyone else – from the virus.
We hear you, the sound of your kids singing Happy Birthday about 50 times EVERY DAY has killed the song forever. But the advice remains clear ... keeping our hands clean is still one of THE best ways to keep ourselves, and others, safe.
‘COVID-19 can be spread directly by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking,’ reads current government advice. ‘These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces by touch and subsequently from touching the face.’
Yup, just the same reason you’re doomed to get every cold your kid does.
The advice is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds (aka Happy Birthday, twice) or use hand sanitiser if you’re on the go.
And to make it even more appealing for little ones, we've found these adorable, refillable hand sanitiser containers that can also be attached on their backpacks. They will LOVE carrying them around and you can find them at Amazon.
Granted, it can be a battle to get kids to befriend a soap bar at the best of times so read up on our expert advice and viral hacks for encouraging them to keep them clean.
It’s heartbreaking if granny STILL hasn’t had a cuddle. But the 1m plus social distancing guidelines still stand. Again, it’s thought to be one of our best defences against the virus spreading.
So, in general, hands-on playdates and extended family/friends cuddles are off limits. However, there are some exceptions ...
In Scotland, kids under 11 no longer need to socially distance from adults who are not shielding. So free rein cuddles are on the cards for little ones there.
Equally, if you’ve formed a ‘support bubble’ (in England or Northern Ireland) or an ‘extended household’ (in Scotland or Wales) then close contact within that group is allowed, meaning grandparent hugs COULD be on.
Read our guide to what grandparents and kids can and (still) can’t do for the full rundown where you live.
But the official advice is careful to call them ‘face coverings’ as medical grade face masks should be left for healthcare workers, not snapped up by the general public.
There’s been a lot of flip-flopping on the advice on face coverings and – you guessed it – the rules are different depending on where you live.
But they are now, with some exemptions, a legal requirement on public transport (which includes taxis!) in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – but not Wales. It's also advised to wear one when you’re in an enclosed space ... think shops, GPs etc and in Scotland, they’re also mandatory in shops (from July 10).
We know what you're thinking ... small kids + rigid rules = not going to happen. That’s why there are allowances for kids.
The mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport in England comes with the caveat that they don’t have to be worn by ‘those who may find them difficult to wear, such as children under two or primary aged children who cannot use them without assistance’ and the latest update on schools re-opening in England makes it clear kids won't be required to wear them there.
In Northern Ireland children under 13 are exempt. And in Scotland they’re not advised for under 5s.
So, it’s time to kit the family out. Why? ‘Evidence shows a face covering can help in reducing the spread of droplets and therefore potentially infecting others,’ according to government guidance.
Did you catch that? Wearing a face covering doesn’t protect YOU, it protects others.
It's important to avoid touching the covering while it’s on and wash it after every use.
The good news is you can pick up some lovely washable face coverings online, if you don’t have time to sew your own in between childcare/work/endless hand washing!
In 2019 we barely knew what Zoflora was ... in 2020 we can’t stop talking about it!
And yes, getting your Mrs Hinch on and keeping surfaces clean is crucial as sneeze and cough droplets ... or, you know, generic child drool ... can sit on them with the potential to spread the virus. Nice.
‘Using disinfectant, wipe down any surfaces or door handles people from outside of your household or support bubble come into contact with if walking through your home,’ reads the latest advice in England.
It’s also advised that you wipe down any garden furniture used before and after the visit. Check out our 5 cleaning tips to keep COVID-19 out of your home.
… with people from outside your bubble/extended household.
Picnics = the new pub and the sanity saver of parents everywhere. But bear in mind the government advice that you should ‘avoid sharing plates and utensils with people outside of your household or your support bubble.’
And ... ‘you should try, wherever possible, not to pass each other food or drink unless you live together or are in a support bubble together.’
So yep, that means making your pals cuppas is out.
And when it comes to picnics, forget everything you were taught – and you’ve taught your kids – about sharing. Be prepared to be jealous of Karen’s homemade quiche ...
If you can’t avoid being closer than 1m to someone then avoiding face-to-face conversation is the next best thing.
‘You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets (released by talking or coughing) when you are within two metres of someone and have face-to-face contact with them,’ notes the government advice.
It’s noted singing/shouting may spray even more droplets even further.
‘You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing someone.’ And it’s advised to keep the interaction as brief as possible.
Granted, kids’ idea of personal space can be interesting, but what they lack in self-awareness they also lack in height, so avoiding face-to-face may not be as hard as it sounds.
Every parent’s favourite task: more washing. According to government guidance, there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days.
So, if you’re going out of the house for work – or the kids are out at school – it’s a good idea to wash your/their clothes regularly. If you work from home, there’s no need. Apart from the usual ‘it might be nice not to smell’ etiquette. But when on Zoom...
Who’d have thought you’re not the only ones desperate to take the kids to the beach on a sunny day?!
But seriously, avoiding crowds is a smart move because lots of people in close proximity = higher risk of spreading the virus.
All is not lost. If your chosen spot is packed out, try our rundown of 45 outdoor activities for kids in lockdown to have fun where the crowds aren't.
While in England it’s been possible for two households to meet up indoors, while maintaining social distancing (and in Northern Ireland, up to six people can) but you might want to pause for thought before packing your calendar with playdates.
The government advice is still clear that: ‘The more people you have interactions with, the more chance the virus has to spread.
‘The risk of transmission is also higher indoors, so you should take extra care to stay as safe as possible.’
So while the rules have changed, the virus hasn’t.
It’s up to you to weigh up the risks vs. the undoubted benefits of being able to visit family, catch-up with an NCT pal in 3D, or for kids to hang out at their friend’s. There isn’t a right answer, only what’s right for you.
And do remember, in Wales and Scotland indoor meetings are off the cards still anyway. So alfresco it is ...
Feel torn about what you're comfortable with when it comes to socialising? Share your thoughts on the chat thread below.
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