Gulliver's Land defends its policy that children as young as three must wear face masks in Milton Keynes
MK's Gulliver's Land theme park is ruling that children from the age of three must wear a face covering to be allowed on rides.
The move comes despite the latest government advice that the face coverings rule should only apply to children aged 11 and over.
Gulliver's say the tots do not have to wear conventional face masks, and suggest parents could use "neck gaiters, summer scarves or bandanas" as a substitute.
It has let some parents baffled and saying it is dangerous for under-threes to wear such items. Others are accusing the park of being too heavy handed.
One mum said: "The government guidance has said under 11s are exempt from wearing face masks in shops. If they are allowed to be exempt from wearing them in a closed space then they should be at a theme park where most of the rides are in open air."
She added: " There is being cautious and then there is being discriminatory. Other theme parks have managed to ensure safety whilst respecting the need to be accessible for everyone. Absolutely protect your customers and staff but the way you have treated children with disabilities is disrespectful, discriminatory and unforgivable in my opinion."
But other parents say the rule is reassuring. " Knowing that the majority of ride users will need to have a face covering puts us at ease if we are able to visit," said one mum.
Earlier this month Gulliver's hit the headlines after refusing a severely disabled youngster access to rides becasue he could not wear a mask. Though the boy was seven, he had the mental age of a baby and would rip a mask off and choke on it, said his mum. See Citizen story here .
Gulliver's now say they accept there are some reasons that children are unable to wear face coverings and they have introduced a system for parents to indicate this when they pre-book their visit.
Julie Dalton, managing director of Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts, said: “This new system will enable us to understand the number of expected interactions, to further assess risk and to identify advanced safety measures where necessary. It also offers an enhanced level in our ability to assist with contract tracing."
A statement on Gulliver's website today says: 'You will recognise that rides and attractions are places where our operators must come into close contact with guests, where people scream, laugh and shout, and where people are in rapid or irregular motion, moving quickly into airspace previously occupied by another.
'It is owing to these environmental and behavioural conditions that we implemented the necessary safety controls. Whilst government guidance indicates that children under 11 years of age do not need to wear a face-covering when in public areas, the specific detail associated to rides and attractions (especially at venues designed for multiple guests of this younger age) can only be determined by a responsible business operator, committed to safeguarding their guests and staff.'
The statement adds: 'Therefore, given our audience demographic, we have asked that all those aged three years and above wear face-coverings whilst using the rides and attractions. Face coverings can take the form of neck gaiters, summer scarves or bandanas, but do not need to be face masks.
'Children under three years of age (who are not recommended to wear face-coverings) collectively form a very small minority of our total audience, thus naturally reducing the number of interactions with staff members and hence lowering transmission risk to an absolute minimum.'
Ms Dalton has thanked guests and staff for their feedback.
She said: "We will continue to comply with government guidance, to listen to our guests and to make adjustments at a sensible pace in order to deliver safe family days out.”
More information is available here