Tighter coronavirus restrictions possible after crowds flock to parks, beaches

A Rotterdam park encouraged social distancing with circles spray-painted on the grass.
A Rotterdam park encouraged social distancing with circles spray-painted on the grass. May 21, 2020Gemeente RotterdamTwitter

Social distancing restrictions will again be tightened in the Netherlands if the crowds which gathered in celebration of an incredibly sunny Ascension Day are any indication of the upcoming summer, said Hubert Bruls, who chairs the council which oversees the country's 25 emergency services regions. "If this is the picture of summer, we'll have a summer with a lot of limitations," said Bruls, who also serves as the mayor of Nijmegen.

He told broadcaster NOS that when it becomes so crowded as to make it impossible to enforce the 1.5-meter physical distance rules, then the government will have to implement new constraints on society again. The council which Bruls helms has been instrumental in advising the Cabinet on restrictions, the authority which municipalities needed to enforce those restrictions, and how the public has adhered to the rules on a local and regional level.

"If we all stick to the measures, we will help to avoid further restrictions when summer really comes," the Haaglanden emergency region said in a statement.

Bruls said he did not know how many fines had been handed out for physical distance violations. Police and security enforcers can hand out fines of 390 euros to any adult violating the rules, and 95 euros to any minor.

Crowds had gathered in parks and in public places near bodies of water as temperatures in the Netherlands hit 28 degrees Celsius during the country's celebration of the Ascension Day public holiday.

In Amsterdam, the crowds became so large at Vondelpark that gates were closed-off to new visitors, many of whom were forced to wait outside until enough others had left the park. Large numbers were also ordered to leave the Marineterrein on the city's Kattenburg island, as well a parkland area along the Amstel River, according to multiple published reports.

Mayor Femke Halsema already said on Tuesday that she was considering tighter restrictions in Amsterdam because of the city's population density.

Many lakeshore areas across Gelderland were also closed, and cleared of crowds. Security services also patrolled the beaches in Almere. Similarly, roadways were closed to motorized traffic in Vlissingen to ensure that fewer people streamed into the coastal Zeeland town. Other road restrictions were also imposed earlier in the day, outside the popular beach towns of Bloemendaal, Heemskerk, IJmuiden, Wijk aan Zee, and Zandvoort.

German holidaymakers, also drawn by the sandy Dutch beaches, were warned to keep away from the Netherlands entirely.