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Child summer camps will look a lot different


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Children's summer camps with a difference may be on the horizon after all despite the limitations of the Covid-19 pandemic. But many parents are questioning how public health experts can draw up guidelines to permit some organised play and leisure activities for children - even though schools have had to remain closed.

Military-style planning is expected to be needed in camps to give children some much-needed screen-free relaxation and fun, despite the virus crisis.

The big difference between summer camps and schools is location. Camps are mostly outdoors and schools indoors. Outdoors is best for reducing risk from the virus.

To understand some of the thinking behind the decision-making that has led to schools staying closed, it's worth referring to the view of chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

He has previously said there were "a very small number of studies" involving "small numbers of children" and insufficient evidence to change advice on the reopening of schools.

Earlier this month, he said he was "not anticipating at this moment" any changes on schools before September.

A small number of studies have not identified a significant pattern of transmission of the virus among children.

The logistics of opening schools at this point would present huge challenges and risks. Months of detailed planning would be needed to decide how it would work.

Will children be in school for a limited number of days? How will physical distancing operate in the classroom?

Parents will need to be reassured that any summer camps are run safely.

Based on other countries, they can expect basic precautions such as smaller numbers and screening of children before the event starts.

Children will be asked about symptoms and if they are feeling unwell they will be told they cannot take part.

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Children at summer camps may be organised into groups which would stay together with the same leader each day to minimise the risk of transmission.

This is akin to the pod concept that is being looked at for childcare facilities. It would require more staff.

The amount of time children spend at their camp may also be shortened compared to previous years.

The contentious use of face masks will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

A number of children may feel well and be asymptomatic, but the type of activity they are encouraged to partake in may not be conducive to wearing masks.

The sharing of cups, plates and cutlery could also present issues if meals are eaten communally during the course of the camp.

There would need to be liberal use of sanitisers and frequent disinfecting of any shared equipment.

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