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No child’s play: Will social distancing work on playgrounds?

Children can return to nursery schools, but they’ll have to stay far apart and there won’t be any outings.

Resource details:

Publication title: Directions on phased return of children to early childhood development programmes and partial care facilities

Author(s): The department of social development

Publication date: 10 July 2020

What the directives are about:

These protocols outline which safety measures must be in place for aftercare and early childhood development (ECD) programmes such as playgroups, crèches and nursery schools to reopen. These facilities can reopen immediately on the condition that they tick all the safety boxes, and have the appropriate registration outlined in the directives. Only facilities that were operating before the national state of disaster was declared in March can reopen. 

Key take-aways from the directives:

  • Children returning to ECD facilities still have to keep their distance from each other.  When the tots are indoors, they should have 1.5 metres between them. This means facilities need to restrict the number of children they allow to return.
  • Children playing or learning outside must also stay 1.5 metres apart. 
  • Parents can only take their children back to the centres they were attending before the national lockdown began. 
  • Children with underlying health conditions may not return to ECD centres without a letter from a doctor. 
  • The seats at support groups for parents must also be arranged one metre apart.
  • People entering ECD centres should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Hand sanitiser should be easily accessible to people entering the premises. Sufficient soap and clean water should be made available inside centres for staff and children.
  • Children younger than two are not allowed to wear masks since they could suffocate, experts say.  
  • Extramurals, outings and open days for visitors are prohibited during the state of disaster. Activities provided by people who aren’t part of the facility’s full-time staff are also not allowed until the end of the state of disaster. 
  • Children and staff members are allowed to commute between provinces, metros or districts to attend their ECD centre if they have a permit.  
  • Who can issue these permits? ECD principals, managers — or individuals they delegate.  
  • The department of social development must continue subsidising ECD centres for the duration of the national state of disaster.

You can find and download the directives here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the department of social development website for the latest information. Visit for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]

Gopolang Makou was the impact and engagement officer at Bhekisisa.