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Kids are not to hug friends or go on play dates yet, says minister

Children still shouldn’t hug friends or have play dates in their homes, an education minister has said, adding everyone still has a role to play in stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Vicky Ford urged restraint when Ant and Dec quizzed her on children’s Covid-19 concerns, on an online school assembly.

The TV stars read out primary pupils’ queries about home learning, coronavirus testing, social distancing and whether Christmas will be postponed as part of the special NSPCC event for thousands of families.

Ms Ford, the UK Government’s minister for children and families, told children following the rules would help get life back to normal as quickly as possible.

Ant and Dec hosted the online assembly

Addressing pupils as part of the assembly today, Ms Ford said: “If you’re in Year Six and returning to school this week then you’ve had the chance to see some of your teachers and friends again. However, it’s still very important to stay safe and protected when you are at school.

“That’s why we’re asking everyone to still keep some distance between each other which means it’s better not to hug just yet.

“We all still have a really important role in trying to stay safe and that means we need to continue to keep a safe distance from people we don’t live with so we don’t risk spreading the virus.

“So for a while longer, please don’t hug your friends or have them round to play inside your house.”

Her plea came after a 10-year-old girl asked how long it would be until they could hug their friends and a seven-year-old boy asked when his friends would be able to come over for a play date.

Dec read out a comment from an 11-year-old boy who was finding it difficult to do school work at home as his flat is “small and noisy” and his friends are always asking him to play games online.

Ms Ford said: “It’s also really important to have fun and to spend time with your friends. We all have to find ways to do that safely online, whilst it’s not possible to see our friends in person.

“So when you finish your schoolwork, then it is good to spend time chatting and playing games with your friends.”

The broadcast, which included an appearance from children’s author David Walliams, is part of the charity’s Speak Out Stay Safe programme of assemblies, which normally take place in primary schools but have now been moved online to reach more pupils at home.

It comes as figures from the NSPCC show the charity’s Childline service has delivered 6,938 counselling sessions to children and young people affected by coronavirus since January.

The charity carried out 2,593 counselling sessions with children who shared concerns about abuse or neglect, on average 370 every week, during seven weeks of lockdown, which is an increase of approximately 60 a week compared to the months leading up to lockdown.

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