THE boss of an award-winning chain of children’s indoor soft play areas is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently reconsider its latest decision to keep soft play centres closed – a move he describes as “both confusing and potentially catastrophic” for the sector.
Yesterday, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced a decision to “pause some changes that we had previously scheduled for slightly later this month [on Monday, the 14th]”.
For soft play centres (and other sectors, such as theatres and live music venues) that means an “indicative date” of October 5 for their re-opening following the lockdown response to Covid-19, with the First Minister recognising that it is a “very hard message to hear” for people working in the affected sectors.
David Capaldi, managing director of six Wonder World soft play areas across the UK is being backed by industry body, Association of Play Industries (API), who share his increasing fears for the sector’s future and that of the thousands of staff it employs in Scotland.
Mr Capaldi notes: “The under-12s, our target audience, are not required to socially-distance and the science has been very clear that increased infection rates are, in fact, directly related to young adults.
“Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that recently re-opened soft plays in England and Wales have contributed in any way to rising infection rates. This latest announcement which keeps the Scottish soft play sector shut therefore makes absolutely no sense, particularly when you consider that indoor facilities like gyms and trampoline centres, which attract a much older age group, have been allowed to re-open.”
He added: “It’s widely known that this virus survives on any hard surface yet outdoor play parks – a magnet for families across Scotland – are allowed to operate with little or no sanitising facilities available for children or, more importantly, adults.
“Like many operators in the indoor soft play sector, we have already spent close to £six-figures making our facilities Covid-secure to ensure families’ safety within our premises.
“We also have measures in place which would require adults visiting our sites to wear masks (when not eating in the café) and socially distance.”
He continued: “Soft play centres directly employ thousands of workers across Scotland but if the sector remains closed much longer, it will be potentially catastrophic in terms of the huge number of jobs which will be lost. This is completely avoidable but only if the decision makers look at the facts and reverse their decision before it’s too late.”
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, Kirkaldy, 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 considered 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 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 wearing 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.
* A booking slot system will be implemented and visits will be by ‘appointment only’.
* After each two-hour session, facilities will be 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.
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