Plea for play date

The five kilometre rule is preventing Estella (9) and Kingston (11) from meeting up with their friends in the nearest town which is Sunbury. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 217458_01

By Jessica Micallef

Kingston and Estella just want to see their friends.

As part of the state government’s step two of the roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions, outdoor public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households are allowed.

However, the five-kilometre travel rules still applies.

Bulla children Kingston, 11, and Estella , 9, live about 10 kilometres away from Sunbury where their friends live.

Mum Amelia Bonett said her children were being “discriminated” against based on their address.

“I can go into Sunbury to buy food or to buy medication but if I were to stop … and talk outdoors to a friend with our kids to play, I would get fined which seems a little silly,” she said.

“It is not sensible. It is discrimination.

“What is the difference if we are going to stop for an hour outside, in a public space staying away for people, but just let the kids see people?”

When it was announced that outdoor gatherings of up to five people could commence, Ms Bonett said her children were excited that they could finally see their friends again.

But because Kingston and Estella live more than five kilometres away from their friends, the new rule did not apply to them.

“They were really sad,” Ms Bonett said.

“It’s pretty upsetting. I cried for them. It’s been such a hard year. [and] there’s lots of people in this situation.”

As metropolitan Melbourne students begin to return to the classroom, Ms Bonett fears students will be thrown into the deep end and will be forced to quickly adjust to social distancing in a classroom setting.

She said allowing children to interact in small groups outdoors while practicing social distancing and safe play would have been “invaluable” ahead of the return to face-to-face learning.

“Some kids will be able to control their personal space and others won’t so they are already going to have enough on their plate,” she said.

“There are loads of children who are so anxious about going back to school because everybody has been told not to go outside, it’s all been dramatic.

“I’ve had friends tell me they are are anxious about going out for a coffee. How are the kids going to cope when they go back to school?”

Both Kingston and Estella wrote letters to the premier, Hume council and local MPs , explaining their situation.

In the letter, Kingston suggested families should be able to nominate a park to meet, and record the names and details of the people in attendance.

“We are trying to ask there be some kind of flexibility given we can travel to the nearest town to buy essentials,” Ms Bonett said.

“There has to be some kind of understanding that if a rule can be made little but more fair, then it should because it has real impact.

“All we are trying to do is help out with finding a Covid normal. How do you do that from scratch without any point of reference?”