Belgian venues close as they 'cannot wait' for government's decision

Belgian venues close as they 'cannot wait' for government's decision
Credit: Kmeron/Flickr CC

Several Belgian venues have decided to close their doors to visitors because of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), as they cannot wait for the government's decision, they said.

The Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in the City of Brussels was the first to announce that it would cancel all its performances until the end of March. On Wednesday evening, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen decided to do the same, and cancelled all performances in Ghent, Antwerp and on tour.

The Regional Security Council of Brussels, comprised of the mayors of Brussels' 19 municipalities, decided on Tuesday to cancel all indoor events with more than 1,000 people, after the Belgian government's recommendation earlier that day. On Thursday, most concert halls and venues decided to go one step further, and cancel (almost) all events.

The Ancienne Belgique (AB) will suspend all its concerts until 31 March, and reschedule where possible, it announced on its website. "We are extremely concerned about the situation and want to take our responsibility in the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19," it said.

The Beursschouwburg in Brussels has also cancelled its entire programme until that date, as well as closes its Beurscafé. Flagey also announced on its website that it "closes its doors to the public until further notice," and all planned concerts, film screenings, lectures and other activities will be postponed.

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Museum Night Fever, a tour of 27 Brussels museums, on Wednesday assumed it would still take place 14 March, but decided on Thursday decided to cancel the event. "We view the coronavirus pandemic as members of a community. Your health is our primary concern here," a statement on the website reads.

"It is a matter of civic responsibility to the artists and to our audience," Jerry Aerts, general director of deSingel, Flanders' international arts centre in Antwerp, told De Standaard. All concerts, theatre and dance performances and exhibitions until the end of March will be cancelled. "We can't keep waiting for the government's decision," he added.

"We must act quickly now. In view of the imminent spread of the coronavirus, this is the only precautionary measure we can take. And if we find that it's still necessary in April, we'll take it further," Aerts said.

The Vooruit, Ghent's arts centre, is taking the same measure. "We are basing ourselves on the virologists [advice]," they told De Standaard. "If they say it's best to cancel large meetings, and the government does not make a decision, we will take our responsibility," they added.

The Concertgebouw, an arts centre in Bruges, announced that it "decided to cancel all public performances" until the end of March 2020, including smaller activities and guided tours.

On Wednesday, the Sportpaleis Group announced on Wednesday that all concerts with more than 1,000 spectators, which is "almost all concerts" according to the CEO, would be cancelled in the Sportpaleis, the Lotto Arena and Forest National.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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