It was a decision that sparked criticism from all angles and was quickly reversed by Belgium’s Council of State. But the poorly-judged call to close the cultural sector before Christmas – a decision many saw as being arbitrary and unfair – has led many to question the ways in which new coronavirus measures are introduced.
Today, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon plainly admitted that the whole embarrassing episode was “not our best decision.” Earlier in the week, he emphasised the need for clarity to prevent similarly compromising situations in future, that serve only to hamper coronavirus efforts.
Certainly, Belgium’s somewhat convoluted structure of national and regional governance is often a little perplexing. At previous stages in the pandemic, it has given rise to somewhat disjointed measures open to abuse. One of the country’s top virologists Steven Van Gucht has warned of the need to “avoid a yo-yo situation” that will only erode public trust in the coronavirus strategy.
To this end, the Consultative Committee will be meeting this Friday to discuss the long-awaited “coronavirus barometer”. This aims to address the need for a coherent and transparent system of evaluating the public health situation and should allow sectors – particularly those relating to hospitality and culture – to foresee and understand probable changes.
Jambon was careful to stress that it will still be “politicians who make the decision” – perhaps doing little to assuage the resentment many still feel towards Belgium’s authorities, especially in the wake of the culture debacle.
All the same, it’s not every day we get to see politicians eating humble pie and fessing up to lapses of judgement. And we could all do with a bit of clarity in these turbulent times.
Thoughts on Belgium’s barometer? Let @Orlando_tbt know.
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The decision to close the culture sector just before the Christmas break was “not the best decision the authorities ever made,” said Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, who is also the region’s Culture Minister. Read more.
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