Northern Ireland’s Department of Communities has rejected a plea from sports stars that children in the province should be allowed to take part in outdoor sport once more.
The call was made last week in an open letter signed by more 50 Northern Ireland sports people.
On Thursday, the NI Executive extended lockdown restrictions until 1 April.
The Department of Communities told BBC Sport NI that there would be no change of policy on outdoor children’s sport.
“Any review of the current regulations and restrictions will be in accordance with the medical and scientific advice,” said the Department in a statement on Friday.
“For now the Executive has decided that to continue to suppress the virus it is important that people stay at home, exercise locally and only undertake essential travel.
“The return of sport including outdoor youth sport will be considered as one of the critical steps in the safe return of sport when the medical and scientific advice indicates that the circumstances are right.
“DfC officials continue to engage with officials from other Departments, including Health and the Executive Office, to inform the development of proposals for a safe return to sport, including youth sport.”
‘Children in front of screens all day’
Last week’s letter said evidence pointed to youth sport continuing in many countries “without adverse effects”.
Ex-Armagh GAA player Aidan O’Rourke also told BBC Sport NI that the need to allow children to undertake sport again was “immediate” and that “the impact on physical and mental health is pretty drastic”.
O’Rourke said the situation would “continue to get worse” unless the First and Deputy First Ministers adopted a changed approach.
The signatories of the letter also included Stuart Dallas and Gary Hamilton from the football world, former Ireland rugby international Stephen Ferris, Tyrone GAA legend Peter Canavan and Ireland hockey star Shirley McCay.
“Since this campaign has started, the number of parents and coaches who have contacted us has been phenomenal,” added O’Rourke.
“We didn’t realise the numbers of people that were struggling with this issue. Behavioural issues at home, personalities disappearing, young people sitting in front of screens all day, all evening.”
The letter insisted there were “no confirmed transmissions of Covid-19 through participation in outdoor sport”.
— to www.bbc.co.uk