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Editor's Viewpoint

Time to play ball on certain Covid restrictions

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'One area badly in need of addressing is that of sport - especially children's sport.'

'One area badly in need of addressing is that of sport - especially children's sport.'

'One area badly in need of addressing is that of sport - especially children's sport.'

The weather over the weekend played its part in lifting spirits across Northern Ireland. The post-Christmas lockdown has coincided with grim conditions so the arrival of some spring sunshine was a tonic.

Improved weather and extended hours of daylight will certainly lift spirits - and hopefully Stormont will add to the mood by taking a sensible approach to the easing of lockdown restrictions. Sensible means being bold and brave enough to make hard decisions - not just opening up but also keeping certain sections closed, for now. Parents will be relieved to hear talk of a full return to classrooms though retail owners may have to make do with some concessions on click and collect.

One area badly in need of addressing is that of sport - especially children's sport. While beauty spots around Northern Ireland gleamed and glistened in the sunshine, playing fields, parks and golf courses lay empty. When the weather was bad, this hardly merited a mention. As March begins though, the prospect of long bright evenings means this could be one of Stormont's less difficult choices.

We've seen groups of people of all ages gather together with scant regard for the regulations. Policing each and every gathering is an impossible job, so attempts to rein in the virus have relied on personal responsibility. And the people have responded and made sacrifices.

But surely it's time to reward them by restarting leisure activities - where possible. Nobody is suggesting that large crowds of parents should be allowed gather on sidelines, or golf clubs should open all hours. But there is a middle ground. The health baenefits hardly need to be spelled out. Mental health in Northern Ireland has been an unseen casualty of the pandemic, such a small move could have a massive impact here as well.

Most sporting activities are controlled by clubs, who should be trusted to accurately communicate and manage the restrictions themselves. There will be enough managers and administrators only too happy to issue updates on any new rules and regulations. It's what WhatsApp groups are for. And if clubs struggle to enforce the rules consequences will be obvious.

On a practical level, if people have more things to do and some facilities are open, it stands to reason that you'll see a reduction in the weekend pilgrimage to the same spots.

It looks like the hospitality sector will have to wait to unlock the doors and welcome in customers. With a bit of luck, by the time they can, they'll be welcoming a vaccinated public, able to return week after week, without any further lockdowns.

Belfast Telegraph


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