WORRIED parents are boycotting children's soft play centres after a dad at a children's party tested positive for coronavirus.
Some mums and dads fear the play areas are "incubation centres" for the spread of the killer bug as the number of UK cases leapt to 163.
But a health expert warned today that taking kids to the centres may actually be safer than letting them play outside.
It comes after New Adventurelands in Newcastle was shut yesterday after a parent was diagnosed with coronavirus.
The dad had taken his child to a private laser party at the venue on Saturday, February 29, but was later confirmed to have Covid-19.
The centre reopened today after extensive cleaning.
But the incident has left parents spooked, with some choosing to swerve soft play.
A mum told Sun Online: "I'll be keeping my children away from parties at soft play centres for a little while.
"They're just not hygienic – I feel a bit mean about it, because my kids love going, but it seems like an unnecessary risk to take at the moment.
"I'm really worried about them picking up the coronavirus there."
One concerned parent posted on Mumsnet: "I certainly wouldn't be going anywhere near soft play.
"Those places are virtually incubation centres at the best of times."
Others told of their plans to avoid swimming, public transport and "definitely soft play" in a bid to swerve the virus.
Mum Rachel Shiel, who visited New Adventurelands with her children on Tuesday, admitted she was concerned about the situation.
She told the Sun Online: "I think I'll be more cautious now about going to soft play areas with my children.
"But I think as long as the necessary precautions are followed, such as washing hands, then I'm going to carry on as normal.
NO PLANS TO CLOSE
"That's not just for me, but for the sake of my children – I don't want to take something away from them that I know they enjoy if I don't have to."
Currently, no soft play centre has announced plans to temporarily close.
Bosses at some of the venues have told Sun Online they're installing more hand sanitisers in a bid to keep the deadly bug at bay.
Bosses at Public Health England say their main advice to parents is simply to keep tots' hands clean.
Professor Robert Dingwall, of Nottingham Trent University, said closing play centres won't stop children meeting in other, less clean settings.
He said: "That may actually be less safe.
"For as yet unexplained reasons, small children don't seem to be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 or to be 'superspreaders' in the way they are for the influenza virus.
"The risks to themselves and others are, then, low – relative to the risks posed by adults."
Asked if parents themselves should steer clear, the prof said: "People should not stay away from play centres because they're afraid of catching the virus.
Here's what to do if you're worried about the coronavirus at a play centre
- Ensure that children's hands are washed thoroughly before and after using a soft play centre
- Ensure the centre uses one of the recommended surface disinfectants with an anti-viral action at the end of every day and, if possible, once or twice a day
- Cough and sneeze into your sleeve, or use a tissue. Dispose of the tissue straight away and wash your hands
- Take extra precautions to avoid crowded areas if you're aged 60 and over or have an underlying health condition
- Self-isolate if your doctor or local health team agrees you should
"If they have been exposed to the virus elsewhere, then it would be sensible to stay away out of respect to other parents and children."
Today, a second coronavirus victim is feared to have died at a hospital in Milton Keynes as the total number of cases across the UK jumped to 163.
The Department of Health confirmed the bug is spreading at its fastest rate yet as a total of 47 people tested positive in the last 24 hours.
In a statement, bosses at New Adventurelands said they were told by Public Health England officials there is "no ongoing risk" to customers.
The attraction can even "trade as normal", managers say.
"I asked if there was any risk to any staff or member of the public and have been informed that there is minimal risk," the manager said.
Last year, we reported that ball pit play areas are riddled with dozens of killer germs because "they're not cleaned for weeks".
Researchers examined six ball areas used by autistic children across the US state of Georgia, finding potentially fatal bacteria present in every environment.
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