Consultative Committee to meet today, announcing reopening of cultural sector

Consultative Committee to meet today, announcing reopening of cultural sector
Protesters in Brussels on Sunday. Credit: Belga

The Consultative Committee will meet on Wednesday with a view to reopening the cultural sector following the decision by the Belgian Council of State to suspend the closure of the cultural sector on Tuesday evening.

The meeting will take place digitally on Wednesday, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

The plan to meet was announced following a meeting of the core cabinet of ministers on Tuesday, after the Council of State decided to lift the closure imposed on the sector during the previous Consultative Committee on Wednesday last week (22 December).

During the previous meeting, it was announced cinemas, theatres and concert halls were prohibited from opening their doors, a measure taken in response to the rapid circulation of the Omicron variant, according to Federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke, who on Tuesday said there would be no reopening until the epidemic is under control. 

However, Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden has now been tasked with adapting the Royal Decree of 23 December imposing the new rules, which should see venues being able to reopen with a maximum capacity of 200 spectators, according to Belga news agency.

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The new rule is expected to be given final approval by the federated entities during Wednesday’s Consultative Committee. Next week, another meeting will be held to evaluate the number of infections with the Omicron variant as well as to make long-term agreements with the cultural sector.

Changes following uproar

The decision made by the government last week received criticism from the sector, its supporters and politicians alike, all of whom stated that the sector had been unfairly targeted with no objective reason, as data from the public health institute Sciensano showed that theatres, concert halls and cinemas are not places where infections are contracted in large numbers.

The closure of these venues, which also went in against the advice given by health experts in the GEMS advisory group, resulted in a large-scale protest in Brussels on Boxing Day (26 December), and several venues going against the rules and opening their doors on Monday in protest of the new measures.

Several organisations in the sector took the matter to court, which ruled on Tuesday that the decision to shut down the sector is “disproportionate” and “the measure is not based on adequate grounds.”

Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet, among others, welcomed the decision that is expected to be approved by the Consultative Committee for cultural venues to reopen but stressed, as politicians have before him, that the government needs to work with more proportional standards.

For the future, a plan will be worked out aimed at giving the sector a realistic perspective for a sector-wide reopening, based on four pillars, including a proportional use of the available capacity, the use of ventilation, face masks and Covid Safe Tickets (CST).

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