As Belgium’s coronavirus situation continues to get worse, the culture and events sectors fear for their future in the face of a fourth wave.
Since Covid-19 cases have been rising, it has been “raining cancellations,” according to the “Sound of Silence”, a non-profit organisation that made a name for itself through a social media stunt to denounce the lack of support measures for the cultural sector during lockdowns.
“When the statistics go up, the number of bookings goes down. We want to call on people to continue attending events and encourage initiators to continue organising events. Don’t let our sector down again,” the organisation said in a press release.
Since mid-October, Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths have been rising in Belgium. This has lead to a decline in tickets being booked and a rise in cancellations, despite the introduction of the Covid Safe Ticket in these sectors.
As of 1 November, the CST is required to attend events with 200 people inside and 400 people outside in Flanders; in the Brussels-Capital Region and in Wallonia it is mandatory for events attended by 50 people or more indoors and 200 or more outdoors.
The organisation stressed that these measures have proven their usefulness and safety. However, it recognises that people are hesitant to buy tickets.
At the end of October, the organisation already asked people to keep attending cultural events “now that it is possible.”
“Keep coming to events, we can do it safely,” Sound of Silence’s Katrien Vermeire told Radio 1. “We have a lot of catching up to do, it’s not like in the hospitality industry that we can open our terrace again and have immediate income.”
Cancellations and bans
Aside from fewer people booking tickets to such events, various mayors – particularly in West-Flanders – have now also announced they will temporarily ban or cancel all organised indoor activities, including cultural events.
From Monday until 30 November, the Belgian coastal municipality Knokke-Heist will cancel all such events for everyone aged 13 and over, as cases and hospitalisations in the region are increasing, mayor Piet De Groote confirmed on Sunday.
Joris Hindryckx, mayor of Houthulst in West Flanders where “the Covid situation is also not very good,” addressed residents in a video message this weekend, stating large-scale events organised for November in the municipality are being cancelled.
“We as a commune decided that the large-scale events that are being organised by the municipality will not go ahead. It is very sad news, as we hoped these would be like ‘freedom parties’,” he said, adding that the health risk is too high.
Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon has asked other mayors to refrain from doing the same. Instead, he stressed the need for each municipality to consider its local situation and avoid making drastic decisions. He also added that on a federal level, “a new lockdown is absolutely not on the agenda.”
Meanwhile, the Sound of Silence stressed that spreading fear and panic “is no use to anyone after two years.”
“So let us reconnect. Let us all continue to attend events according to the measures in place.”