Belgium in Brief: Culture clash

Belgium in Brief: Culture clash

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is normally a period of calm. Any serious business goes on the back burner and politicians typically lay low before a new year presents new problems.

Not so in 2021. Barely recovered from the festive feast, Boxing Day saw large crowds gather in the centre of Brussels to protest the latest coronavirus measures that have the cultural sector in a chokehold. As things stand currently, indoor gatherings are prohibited: bad news if you happen to own a cinema, theatre, or bowling alley.

Affected businesses were quick to voice their frustration and pointed to their concerted efforts to ensure that venues could remain open in all accordance with health guidelines. Indeed, Belgium’s public health institute Sciensano found that cultural centres were emphatically not hotbeds for Covid infections. So why force them to close when other industries can remain open?

For many, the measures are missing the mark. The PS socialist party leader Paul Magnette has openly stated that politicians “got it wrong”. Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights warned that seemingly disjointed measures such as these undermine public confidence in authorities.

This erosion of trust was plain to see when numerous cinemas in Brussels openly flouted new regulations to stay open on Monday – the manager of one such venue asking: “What more do you want? We have always followed the measures closely. Even virologists do not understand the compulsory closure. It doesn’t make sense.”

And so with tensions running high, all eyes are now looking to the powers that be: will they make a U-turn? Will they instruct an already stretched police force to clamp down on non-conformers? Or will other venues also choose to overlook regulations and quietly open up?

Let @OrlandoWhitehe6 know.

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