Children must not hug their friends or have play dates inside their homes, an education minister has urge during a special celebrity hosted assembly to address young people's fears over Covid-19.

Celebrities Ant and Dec asked Vicky Ford, minister for children and families, a series of questions from pupils as part of a virtual assembly.

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

Ms Ford told children that everyone still had a vital role to play in reducing the risk of spreading the virus, adding that following the rules would help get life back to normal as quickly as possible.

Addressing pupils as part of the assembly on Friday, 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.

Vicky Ford answered questions from pupils Credit: Facebook/NSPCC

“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.”

She added: “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 said he 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.”

David Walliams took part in the NSPCC virtual assembly Credit: Facebook/NSPCC

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 that 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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