Covid-19: in Belgium, the cultural sector protests against the closure of theaters imposed by the government


They are about 5,000 to have braved the rain, Sunday December 26, to protest against the decision of the Belgian federal government, taken Wednesday December 22, to close the cultural places in order to stop the progression of the Omicron variant. « It’s too much humiliation, says Annie Bozzini, director of Charleroi Danse. We have made efforts and followed all the previous measures. It is unfair, unfounded and arbitrary. « 

In the heart of Brussels, the crowd swarms at the foot of the Mont des Arts, renamed for the occasion « Death of the arts ». The third confinement of the cultural sector is experienced as a « Blow of the club », while the previous one was spread over seven months. “We work with control systems adapted to the infrastructures and scalable according to the health situation. We have developed these protocols with virologists. This decision is illogical ”, explains, to World, Peter de Caluwe, director of the Royal Theater of La Monnaie. The culture sector has reduced its gauges, installed ventilation systems, applied the sanitary pass.

Sophie Lauwers, Director General of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels: « Today, it’s as if we were associating culture and disease »

The statistical elements in the possession of Sciensano, the scientific institute of public health, tend to prove that theaters or cinema are at the back of the pack of places of contamination. « We are being closed to avoid closing other sectors », regrets Pierre Thys, director of the National Theater. Actors in the cultural sector do not understand why bars, restaurants, cafes, and even sports halls will remain open when they are forced to close their doors from December 26 for an indefinite period.

These closures were not recommended, at this stage, by the group of experts on crisis strategy for Covid-19, made up of virologists, infectious disease specialists and biostatisticians. « Today, it’s as if we associated culture and disease », deplores Sophie Lauwers, Director General of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. The snub is so brutal that the decision of the government coalition, led by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal of the VLD), manages to unite, against it, the Flemish and French-speaking cultural sectors, united for the occasion.

A « peaceful disobedience »

The Prime Minister justified his government’s decision by the expected consequences of the circulation of the Omicron variant in a context where hospitals are already overheating. But his decision does not pass. According to Sciensano’s latest epidemiological bulletin, the number of confirmed cases and hospital admissions was down on Saturday, December 25. Strong criticism was issued Thursday, December 23, in the House of Representatives, by members of the opposition and the majority. Flemish Green, Socialist, Liberal and Christian Democrat MPs, whose parties are members of the ruling coalition, have called for this decision to be reconsidered.

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