‘Glühwein has won over culture’: Belgium’s virologist criticises closure of cultural sector

‘Glühwein has won over culture’: Belgium’s virologist criticises closure of cultural sector
Marc Van Ranst: Credit: Belga/N. Maeterlinck

Belgium’s chief virologist Marc Van Ranst criticised the Consultative Committee’s decision to completely close the cultural sector while keeping the food and hospitality one open.

“When you see that the Christmas markets remain open, you can say that mulled wine has won over culture,” Van Ranst said in Het Journaal.

Prime Minister De Croo disagrees, saying “there is a fundamental difference between indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor activities are much more dangerous than outdoor activities.”

The Consultative Committee imposed a slew of additional strict measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 on Wednesday, including a shut down of the cultural sector and a ban on all indoor activities outside of households.

Van Ranst said he finds it remarkable that the cultural sector is completely restricted while no extra measures are imposed on the catering industry.

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“The measures of the Consultative Committee are quite severe, especially if you add up all the measures of the past weeks,” Van Ranst said.

“The experts' assessment of the situation in theatres and cinemas was that ventilation is good and that things are under control there. They can remain open.”

Unequal treatment for sectors

For Van Ranst, the closure is without a doubt a heavy blow to the cultural sector, “however, the confidence in that sector is very high. We are not talking about hundreds of thousands of visitors per evening who go to performances.”

Van Ranst also fears that more and more Dutch people will find their way to the Belgian hospitality industry, escaping a strict lockdown in their own country.

“I saw the scenes in Antwerp with the large terraces that are covered. When you sit under such a roof, it starts to look very much like an indoor space. If you look at the list of measures, you see that the catering industry is not being further restricted. It is also very inviting to Dutch people when the catering industry stays open until 11:00 PM,” he said.

Van Ranst also noted that there’s a big difference between restaurants and pubs when it comes to compliance with the measures. He pleaded for stricter enforcement of the existing rules in that industry.

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