After protests, Belgium suspends Covid closure of cultural venues 

A court in Belgium suspended closure of cultural venues on Tuesday. These also include theatres. A measure for closure of cultural places was announced last week. The move was aimed towards stemming spread of Omicron Covid variant.

A protest was held in cultural district in Brussels against closure of cultural spaces.

Suspension of closure will not immediately lead to the reopening of cinemas

A ruling from Belgium’s highest administrative court said the authorities had not demonstrated “in what way entertainment venues are particularly dangerous places for (people’s) health… in that they would spread coronavirus, to the extent necessary to order their closure”. 

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced the original measure on December 22 as Belgium saw a sharp increase in the percentage of tests showing the Omicron variant. 

That came despite an overall drop off in Covid-19 infections since a peak at the start of the month as the country battled a fourth wave that strained hospitals. 

Police in Brussels estimated that some 5,000 people took to the streets on Sunday to protest the closure of cultural venues. 

The authorities were accused of targeting the sector as bars and restaurants were allowed to keep trading. 

The decision to reverse the government’s closure order came after a complaint was lodged by a theatre producer in the capital. 

Cinemas and other venues including bowling alleys and casinos were not included — but the authorities are facing similar challenges that could see more locations allowed to reopen in the coming days. 

Several prominent theatres and cinemas had decided to remain open in defiance of the measure.

(With inputs from agencies)

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