Parks across the city are still out of bounds for those below 18 years. The state government has not yet lifted the ban on entry to those who are unvaccinated, a restriction that many doctors, psychologists and parents feel should be lifted.
Those arguing for an end to the restriction said shutting out children from parks while allowing them inside enclosed spaces like malls was against what the world has learnt about the spread of Covid-19. According to scientists, enclosed environs carry greater threat of the spread of the infection.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), the custodian of about 700 parks in the city, has no plans to lift the restrictions immediately. A civic official said they were merely following instructions from the state government.
“There is no plan to allow the entry of people below 18 in parks immediately. This is a policy decision and since there is no board now, such a decision is unlikely,” said a senior official of the KMC. KMC elections are scheduled for December 19. Officials said a decision like allowing unvaccinated individuals below 18 could be taken only after a new board assumed charge after the elections.
But a number of doctors, psychologists and parents felt that parks should be opened to individuals below 18. It was not the fault of children that they are unvaccinated.
Covid vaccines are still restricted to those who are 18 years or older.
Paediatrician Apurba Ghosh said he found “no logic” behind the decision to keep children away from parks. “Children are going everywhere. Keeping parks closed has no logic while every other activity has been allowed. In fact, there are fewer possibilities of transmission of Covid-19 in an open space like a park than in an enclosed space,” said Ghosh, director of the Institute of Child Health.
Opening parks is also crucial for the mental well-being of children who have been forced indoors by the pandemic for more than a year and a half.
Farishta Dastur Mukerji, a psychotherapist and children's counsellor, said social and emotional development of children suffered hugely as schools were shut during the pandemic.
“Parks are where children used to learn social skills. Their closure will definitely impact them. There are many children who have no other place to go for recreation. Where will they go?” she asked.
“We have not allowed children to go to schools and we are also not allowing them to go to parks. Forget playing or anything, a visit to the park will also allow them to breathe some fresh air,” she said.
The state government had issued a notification on June 14 that said “parks may remain open for morning walks, physical exercise etc during 6am to 9am and only vaccinated people shall be allowed”.
Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, the custodian of Rabindra Sarobar, has allowed the entry of below 18 individuals from Saturday.