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.
At the end of 2021, the Consultative Committee decided to shut the entire culture sector while allowing bars, restaurants and Christmas markets to remain open. This immediately led to a large-scale protest from the sector, and the Council of State overturned the authorities’ decision shortly after.
“As Minister-President, I have to look at the whole picture. But everyone realised that closing the cultural sector was a difficult decision,” Jambon said on Flemish radio on Tuesday.
“Wherever you draw the line, there will always be people who fall by the wayside. In hindsight, if the Council of State overturns your policy, then we have to humbly admit that this was not our best decision,” he added.
Currently, the culture sector (theatres, concert halls, cinemas, among others) is allowed to open, but for an audience of no more than 200, all wearing face masks.
At the next Consultative Committee – due to take place on Friday – Jambon wants to iron out some “anomalies” in the current measures for culture and events, to make sure that the rules make sense.
“For example, you can sit inside with 200 people, but not outside. But everyone says that outdoors is much safer than indoors, so that rule must be removed,” he said. “Amateur theatre companies can perform in a venue for 200 people, but they are not allowed to rehearse. You cannot explain that, that rule has to go.”
Lastly, the rules regarding the seating capacity in different venues also have to be cleared up. “A 200 capacity theatre can currently seat those 200 people, running at full capacity. But a venue with a capacity of 2,500 is also only allowed to seat 200 people,” Jambon explained. “These are a number of things which I hope we will put right on Friday.”
Upcoming coronavirus barometer
On Friday, ministers are expected to introduce the “coronavirus barometer,” which aims to give the population and certain sectors – specifically the culture sector – a better idea about what measures might be introduced according to the epidemiological situation.
Using three colours, the barometer will indicate how serious the state of the epidemic is and measures that could be taken in different sectors, Corona Commission Pedro Facon said on Flemish radio last week.
Still, it will be up to politicians to decide whether these measures should be taken or not, Jambon stressed. “We are still in the preparatory stages, but the Consultative Committee will always make the final decision.”
“The barometer is an important indicator because you will also have to explain why you might want to deviate from it, but it is the politicians who make the decision,” he added.