Belgium: 5,000 demonstrators protest in the street against government measures

This Sunday, several demonstrators gathered in the streets of Brussels to protest against the measures taken by the Belgian government to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.

The closure of theaters, they are against and let it be known in the streets of Brussels this Sunday. According to police, 5,000 protested against measures taken by authorities to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

« No to this stupid decree! », « Unlike finance, culture enriches us », « No culture, no future » proclaimed placards in the rally. Some demonstrators wore carnival masks, in a good-natured atmosphere where French and Dutch speakers mingled.

The gathering, under a fine rain, lasted about two hours, at the foot of the Mont des Arts, the museum district of the Belgian capital. The demonstrators dispersed without incident by mid-afternoon.

Perched on a platform, officials of major Brussels cultural institutions, such as the Royal Flemish Theater (KVS) and the La Monnaie opera house, called on politicians to « reconsider » the decision to close theaters from Sunday. This was presented Wednesday as a precautionary measure against the very contagious variant Omicron.

Yet the new wave of the pandemic continues to ebb in Belgium, the absolute numbers of infections have been decreasing for three weeks, and the experts who advise the government had not recommended at this stage a new turn of the screw for culture despite the situation. strained in hospitals.

Speaking of « inconsistency » or even « aberration », several health experts have publicly denounced this decision, considered all the more surprising as cafes and restaurants can remain open throughout the country under certain conditions.

« Once again, we are deepening inequalities and access to culture, » denounced Virginie Cordier, director of the cultural center La Vènerie, in the Brussels municipality of Watermael-Boitsfort.

« This closure is unfair »

Others spoke of the importance of keeping cinemas and theaters open « for the mental health » of a population affected by nearly two years of pandemic.

« I prefer to feed myself on culture than to eat at the restaurant. This closure is unfair, » said Catherine, a French teacher in her fifties.

Some theaters and many cinemas, especially in Brussels, Namur (center) and Liège (east), have decided to defy the ban by remaining open on Sunday.

Another protest demonstration took place in Liège on Sunday, with several hundred people, according to the Belga news agency.

In announcing the new restrictions on Wednesday, the government said it did not plan to re-assess the situation until early January. No precise date has been given.

« Masks, CST (the Belgian health pass, editor’s note), ventilation, CO2 detectors, air purification, physical distancing, etc. »: the entertainment world « largely respected the imposed protocols », protested the Belgian League of Rights humans (LDH) by announcing its intention to take legal action with several associations or federation in the sector.

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