Coronavirus: Are playdates right or wrong during Covid-19?

Depends who you ask. If you have children to play, there are certain rules you should follow

While most people now understand the concept of social distancing (keeping between one and two metres away from everyone else), regular hand-washing and coughing/sneezing etiquette as strategies to curtail the spread of Covid-19, it’s difficult to know what to do when your children request play dates with their friends.

Some local authorities closed playgrounds within days of school and crèche closures on March 12th so as to prevent large numbers of children being in close contact with each other. However some playgrounds remain open across the country.

The Department of Health advises families to continue to spend time outdoors – as a family rather than in groups.

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer has also said that "parents should try and avoid arranging play dates for groups of young children at the early stage of the outbreak". However, rather than staying indoors, families should consider outdoor activities such as playing football in the open in small groups of three or four while maintaining social distancing of two metres.


The HSE has also advised parents to limit the number of children on a playdate. The spokesperson says: “Teach your children how to interact, how to wash their hands properly and coughing etiquette [coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow or a tissue which is thrown in the bin straight afterwards]. If a child is sick, they should not attend a playdate or visit older relatives.”

However, should parents impose further restrictions on their children’s contact with their friends?

“It’s hard to put an absolute ban on children seeing their friends but we are discouraging mixing different groups of children – particularly if anyone in the group has symptoms,” explains Dr Nuala O’Connor, lead adviser on Covid-19 with the Irish College of General Practitioners.

She says people need to be sensible about their interactions. “It’s good to go outdoors and take your children for a walk but people should minimise the amount of time they spend with others, and very young children should be kept to household contacts,” says Dr O’Connor.

She adds that it’s important for everyone to remember that people can’t catch the virus from skin-to-skin contact but only if infected droplets get on your hands (when someone with the Covid-19 virus coughs or sneezes close to you) and you then touch your face and the virus enters your body through the mucous membranes of your eyes, mouth or nose.