AN award-winning chain of children’s indoor soft play areas is urgently seeking answers as to when its facilities might re-open.
David Capaldi, managing director of six Wonder World soft play areas across the UK, fears for the long-term viability of businesses like his and the thousands of jobs they support, if facilities are not allowed to re-open.
Mr Capaldi’s concerns echo those recently reported of the Association of Play Industries (API), also seeking clarification when its members may once again open their doors, as financial concerns in the industry increase.
Mr Capaldi comments: “The science consistently tells us that children are the least likely group to contract the virus.
“It’s therefore almost impossible to understand why facilities like ours cannot re-open to the public, especially when we would require all adults to wear face coverings.
“As a responsible business, we have already spent close to a six-figure sum making our facilities COVID-safe.
“This includes the purchase of state-of-the art electrostatic sprays, to enable quick and effective deep-cleans, temperature camera provision, perspex fitted at reception, and cafe areas fully-tested and already in place, washable face masks for our 250 staff and the availability of free-standing sanitiser units at reception, at the cafe, positioned around the toilet areas, plus in the main areas and also at the cloakroom.”
Mr Capaldi also confirms that his company will move to a booking slot operation whereby after each two-hour session, the facility is fully closed for 45 minutes and fully deep-cleaned with electrostatic sprays (which do not need to be wiped or dried, as they automatically dry with air in 15 minutes) to ensure the facility is safe and clean for the next booking slot to enter.
The financial pressure on soft plays centres is further aggravated by the fact that many are not eligible for much of the financial assistance that is currently available. Loans are rejected by many as it simply accumulates debt for which they will have challenges to repay, particularly as customer bases will be smaller on account of booking slot times for the foreseeable future.
Mr Capaldi concludes: “Given that COVID-secure plans are already in place across the sector, this lack of clarity needs to be addressed because, whilst our industry is a godsend for millions of parents, its future is being plunged into serious doubt. I honestly fear that many facilities will be forced to permanently close their doors with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, if clarity or practical financial assistance are not offered.”
Notes for editors:
David Capaldi is managing director of the six-strong Wonder World chain, which was founded in Scotland in 2013. The business employs over 250 staff and, pre-COVID, welcomed close to 2,000,000 visitors each year. Facilities are located in East Kilbride, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy, Glasgow and London.
COVID-safe measures, in which Wonder World Group has already invested, include:
* Electrostatic sprays have been invested in as handheld sprayers to enable quick and effective deep-cleans. The fluid dispersed is food-safe, fragrance-free, alcohol-free, chlorine-free, non-corrosive safe for use COVID-19 Certified Eliminator. There is no requirement to wipe or dry the electrostatic spray as it will automatically dry with air in 15 minutes.
* Temperature camera provision set up, fully-tested and already in place. If a customer enters and their temperature is high, the staff are automatically alerted to the screen and the person at risk if entering with a high temperature will be easily identified.
* Perspex is fitted at reception and cafe areas.
* Full deep-cleans being actioned ahead of reopening including all equipment, surfaces, screens and toilets areas sanitised and each venue aired.
* Staff will wear black branded face masks which are washable.
* Free-standing sanitiser units will be visible and available on entry at reception, at the cafe, positioned around the toilet areas, plus in the main areas and also at the cloakroom.
* Full names, addresses and phone numbers will be taken on entry of all attendees.
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