Covid-19: in Belgium, the cultural world mobilized against the closure of theaters

Several thousand people, 5,000 according to the police, demonstrated on Sunday, December 26, in Brussels, to protest against the closure of performance halls imposed by the authorities to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

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

Children hold up signs referring to canceled performances in Brussels on December 26, 2021.

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.

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Call to « reconsider » the decision

Perched on a platform, officials of major Brussels cultural institutions, such as the Royal Flemish Theater and the Opéra de La Monnaie, 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.

However, the fourth wave of the pandemic continues to ebb in Belgium, the absolute numbers of infections have been declining 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 tense situation in hospitals.

Speaking of« Inconsistency », 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.

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Some places have decided to defy the ban

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

A woman holds a “No culture, no future” banner during the demonstration in Brussels on December 26, 2021.

Others spoke of the importance of keeping cinemas and theaters open « For mental health » of a population affected by nearly two years of pandemic. “I prefer to feed on culture than to eat at the restaurant. This closure is unfair ”, launched 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 before the beginning of January. No precise date has been given.

« Masks, CST [le passe sanitaire belge], ventilation, CO detectors2, air purification, physical distancing, etc. «  : the world of entertainment has « Largely respected the imposed protocols », protested the Belgian League for Human Rights by announcing its intention to take legal action with several associations or federations in the sector.

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The World with AFP

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