Rutte: Be careful skating this weekend with hospitals already full
With a week of subzero temperatures on the way, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said people should take the time to enjoy wintery landscapes and any ice that forms on natural bodies of water. However, with over two thousand Covid-19 patients in hospital care on Friday, the outgoing prime minister also warned people to stay alert and be careful.
"Don't fall!" he said during his regular weekly press conference. He said people need to be mindful whether they are skating on the ice, driving their cars, or cycling on the slippery bike paths. "Be careful. Hospitals are not looking forward to broken bones." he said.
Earlier in the day, Nijmegen Mayor Hubert Bruls said people also need to continue to respect social distancing rules even if they want to play in the snow or take to the ice. "Yes, you can skate," he said on NPO Radio 2. "You can compare it to going for a nature walk, a walk in the park or exercising outdoors. It is all allowed."
Bruls is the chair of the National Security Council, which coordinates policy and rules among the 25 regional safety and security offices across the Netherlands. "You cannot swing arm-in-arm across the track in groups of five. Then you are in violation," he stated.
Skaters will have to adhere to the other coronavirus measures, including social distancing and curfew. Skating union KNSB issued a protocol stating that everyone aged 18 and older can skate alone or in a group no larger than two people while keeping 1.5 meters apart from everyone else. Skaters aged 17 and younger can skate in slightly larger groups. No competitions are allowed, and canteens, showers and changing rooms will all be closed.
Bruls believes that the ice clubs with skating rinks are well prepared. "They all have a protocol from the KNSB, the skating union, and they will probably work with the admission of people. For example, a certain number per hour. If it gets too busy and all does not work out, it will have to be said in the extreme case: skating can't happen on this rink for now."
Like Rutte, he also called on people who plan to enjoy the winter weather outside to do so carefully. "The hospitals are busy enough as it is. It would be unfortunate if the emergency rooms were to become crowded with ice and snow accidents. We can't stand that."