Being Covid-19 wise and socially sensible

Don’t leave home, “unless you really have to”, says Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Adding: “Stop social mixing. People will die” if we don’t. His stark statement comes as people continue to gather with friends in parks and public spaces now that all other venues have closed.

Some of London’s best known and loved parks are now being closed by local councils, with Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark councils being among the first to act. The Royal Parks are considering closures too.


People are sociable. Even more so now, where complete strangers passing in the street smile and exchange knowing nods as if to say: “What is this madness that has collapsed our lives to isolated walks around empty shop shelves”. For this reason, we’re not going to talk about social isolating, we’re calling it physical isolating

Doctors, nurses and social workers are all urging us to: “stay at home” … “don’t go out”. We all need fresh air and exercise but must act responsibly. If you’ve no symptoms and are following the Government advice, please be sensible and only go out if it’s essential and not for meeting casually with friends or family.

The GLA’s webpage has the latest guidance and advice for Londoners on all aspects of Covid-19.

Last year, we launched the London National Park City with a big Festival. We won’t be able to do that this year because of the virus. We’re considering ways we can have an online festival where anyone can join-in online or at home, sharing feelings and activities through our social media pages. We’d welcome your thoughts and inspirational ideas.

For our own sanity and well-being, we all need some respite from whichever four walls have become the restrictive extent of our worlds. Time spent at an open window, on a balcony, on your front doorstep, garden or community space can be a good investment in your physical and mental health. Speaking on Mother’s Day, Sunday 22 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said most parks and public spaces remain open for fresh air and exercise. But he stressed people must keep a minimum two metre (6 and a half foot) physical isolation distance from others; and not to use these spaces as destinations.

If you’re staying indoors, search online or check social media feeds for things to keep you occupied. Nature is out there and you can stay in touch via the internet; here’s a link to a live webcam monitoring a pair of nesting peregrine falcons in Merton. Three other websites offering nature webcams you can try:

With most shops, cafes and workplaces shut down, many people have time on their hands, and some are considering escaping the city for more rural settings. Again, the advice is not to consider taking a holiday. Stay at home. There are some exceptions, like a plea from the Young Farmers’ Federation. They have launched an urgent appeal for seasonal workers. Farms normally need some 70,000 people every year to harvest fruit and veg to keep our shops supplied. 

Families and children

To date, healthy children have been less vulnerable to the coronavirus, but they can pass it on. There are warnings to parents about keeping children off communal play equipment like swings, climbing frames and slides or away from busy areas. Parks offer much more than playground equipment, such as space for children to run, cycle, kick a ball about, discover nature or roll down hills, and there are lots of green walks alongside canals and rivers or between parks and public open spaces. 

Four points to remember:

  1. Follow the guidance of your local health authority in terms of what kinds of activities are safe
  2. Avoid playgrounds or other “high-touch” areas like toy stores or play areas 
  3. Interact with friends and family over the internet. Let children use their imagination with one another by doing arts and crafts or playing pretend over video-chat
  4. Go to the minimum number of places for the minimum amount of time and always maintain physical distancing (minimum 2 metres) from anyone else 

As Cath Prisk of the London National Park City Schools Network put it: “A school is not a building; it’s the community it builds and serves. Together we can help children across the capital to thrive this summer: to build resilience, and to return to school with not only new skills but a love and understanding of their local environment that will give them the foundation for the rest of their lives.”

Cath recommends as a good website for kid’s activities. Perhaps starting a nature journal of your walks or nature discoveries. The Outdoor Classrom Day website offers ideas which can be tweaked for home use.  And you can use the #BigGreenLondonMap to find parks and public spaces near you to explore on a walk.

The Scouts website offers some great ideas to keep children entertained indoors. Libraries have large online resources including audio-books. The BBC has a wealth of free education and entertainment resources for children, and local communities are rallying to offer virtual lessons through social media on a range of curriculum subjects. Learning through Landscapes offers a weekly Home Learning and Play post on their Facebook group

We’ll keep you updated on ways to manage life sustainably through the coronavirus crisis and as always, welcome your contributions.

Stay safe, stay in touch, stay engaged and please, be socially sensible at all times.

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