Councils around the country are closing off playgrounds as they prepare for a full lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

With schools, kindies, pools, shops and libraries closed and sports events cancelled, parents may have been hoping to take their youngsters to the local playground as a last resort.

But they're being asked not to because the disease could be spread on shared hard surfaces like swings and slides.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today to Newshub that playground equipment was off limits as the virus could stay on them for up to 72 hours.

Julie Pickering, Auckland Council's head of operations for community facilities, said parks remained open so people could get exercise and fresh air, as long as they practised isolation and safe social distancing.

"However, buildings, playgrounds and all other facilities in our parks are closed and people should stay away from these.

"We are working at pace to have signage up at all Auckland Council-owned playgrounds by Wednesday evening. While we do this, it's very important that people stay away from playgrounds from now onwards."

Play equipment is a no-go because the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive on hard surfaces for 72 hours. Photo / Mark Graham
Play equipment is a no-go because the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive on hard surfaces for 72 hours. Photo / Mark Graham The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Speaking to 95bFM today, Auckland's mayor Phil Goff acknowledged it would be difficult to take a 3-year-old to a park and forbid them from going on a swing - so suggested taking a route through trees rather than toward a playground.

"We know that Covid-19 can survive on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. So if we want to minimise the risk of catching and transmitting that disease, [it's] probably best to leave that playground equipment alone," he told bFM.

"Touching surfaces that other people have touched, that does create a risk and we're trying to minimise the risk."


Although kids were unlikely to die if they caught Covid-19, they could transmit the virus to other, vulnerable people, he said.

"Staying at home doesn't mean home detention ... go for a walk, go to the local park, go to the beach but please not like they were doing on Bondi Beach."

In Hamilton skate parks, basketball courts and playgrounds will be closed to the public until further notice.

Council chief executive Richard Briggs says keeping people home is the best way to put the brakes on Covid-19's spread.

"We cannot make any facilities available that encourage people to break those rules. It's the best way to prevent a widespread outbreak of the virus," Briggs said.

Westland, Wellington, Horowhenua, Selwyn and Dunedin are also closing playgrounds until further notice.