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Do children have to follow social distancing rules?

children playing in a playground

Schools will return after the summer break – but will playtime be the same? (Picture: Getty)

Children are set to return to school on a full-time basis after the summer break, with Boris Johnson claiming that getting children back to school by September 1 is a ‘national priority’.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Friday, the PM floated the idea there may have to be ‘trade-offs’ – such as closing bars and restaurants – to achieve this goal.

‘Your basic point is a very good one about the trade-offs that we’re looking at here. I do believe getting our children back to school on September 1… that should be a national priority,’ he said.

Professor Whitty added: ‘The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong. I think what we’re seeing from the data from ONS and other data is that we have probably reached near the limit or the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society.

‘So what that means potentially is that if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things. And these will be difficult trade-offs, some of which will be decisions for government and some of which are for all of us as citizens to do.’

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Will pupils need to practice social distancing when they return and what are the current rules for children?

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Do children need to practice social distancing?

Rules around social distancing and young people vary across the country.

In England, children – as well as adults – must continue to observe social distancing rules, maintaining a distance of two metres from anyone they do not live with, or who is not in their support bubble.

The Government has issued specific advice to young people on the gov.uk website, which states: ‘It is really important that you continue to limit the number of people you meet, even though this may feel difficult. The more people you meet, the greater chances there are of spreading the virus to others.

‘To protect you, your family, your friends and community, you should practise social distancing. This means maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (or 3 steps or 3 big steps for younger children) between yourself and anyone who is not from your household or support bubble – indoors and outdoors.’

In Scotland, as of Thursday 2 July, children aged 11 or under no longer need have to socially distance from children or other adults when outdoors.

Children going to school wearing face masks

It is expected younger children will be encouraged to socialise in ‘bubbles’ (Picture: Getty)

However, children aged 12 to 17 must maintain social distancing rules of two metres.

In Wales, from Monday 3 August, children under the age of 11 will also no longer have to practice social distancing. From tomorrow, groups of up to 30 will also be allowed to meet up outdoors.

The one-metre social distancing rule remains in Northern Ireland.

On the subject of returning to schools, the government’s website states schools must ‘minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing wherever possible.’

Their advice states contact between children and staff should be kept to a minimum, either through social distancing or by keeping groups separate, in bubbles.

The official guidance states: ‘It is likely that for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children, it will be on distancing. For children old enough, they should also be supported to maintain distance and not touch staff where possible.’

MORE: Another 74 people die with coronavirus bringing UK death toll to 46,193

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