Video capturing 150 skaters on crowded ice rink in London, Ont. prompts greater monitoring

A screenshot of a video capturing approx. 150 skaters on the ice at London, Ont.,'s Victoria Park public ice rink on Friday night. Ben Cowie/Twitter

A video capturing approximately 150 skaters on the ice at London, Ont.,’s Victoria Park public ice rink has prompted officials to hurry with a solution as the region moves into the red tier.

The video was posted to Twitter at 8:21 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11 and has since received nearly 40 retweets and 50 likes.

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The London and Middlesex region will enter the red-control tier of the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Under the red tier’s guidelines, only 25 people would be allowed at the skating rink.

“In general, outdoor activities are safer than indoor, but when you have that many people gathering, you give up a lot of that added safety,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health.

“Being physically active, you tend to breathe more heavily which means somebody who has COVID-19 could spread it more easily and somebody who doesn’t could breathe in more virus particles — potentially enough to become infected.”

He added contact tracing would be “impossible” in this situation as “it’s very unlikely that an individual would know more than a handful of the 150 people or so in the video.”

Mackie said the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is working with the city of London to figure out ways to ensure skaters are following safety guidelines.

He said the main recommendation is closer monitoring, “which could include city bylaw, public health inspectors (and) anyone in a police force.”

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“The city has taken every effort to enforce physical distancing in all of our recreation activities, including outdoor skating rinks. We have asked participants to physically distance,” said Lynn Loubert, division manager of aquatics, arenas, and parks operations with the city of London, in a statement.

The statement also said the city has been made aware of the overcapacity issues and the rink was closed early.

“We have staff on-site who monitor this at all times. As numbers increased, supervisors were called to the rink to support the early closure,” the statement said.

Moving forward, Loubert said the rink will be fenced, and “staff will be admitting no more than 25 people at a time, for no more than 50 minutes to ensure compliance with the health restrictions.”

However, a tweet posted Sunday morning states the rink will allow for a “maximum capacity of 100 skaters.”

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Mackie recommends those who want to go skating should visit other outdoor rinks in the city, such as the one at Storybook Gardens where skaters must book online in advance.

“Skiing and snowboarding would also be relatively low risk except for the line-ups at the chair lifts,” he said.

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