Belgium’s Consultative Committee decided late Wednesday evening that theatres, opera houses, concert halls and cinemas may reopen, reversing the measures they themselves implemented last week.
The announcement is largely redundant, given that the country’s Council of State already suspended the closure of the cultural sector after ruling that those coronavirus measures were disproportionate and lacked justification.
Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) has now made a new royal decree, reports VRT, in which sports competitions with spectators and recreational bowling remain prohibited.
The initial decision to close the cultural sector set off a firestorm of criticism, with some analysts saying the move – followed shortly by its reversal from the Council of State – demonstrated a lack of political leadership and amounted to “an absolute loss of face.”
The closure went against the advice of the Consultative Committee’s own experts, and sparked protests from the sector.
While they now have the Committee’s official blessing to reopen, many theatres never closed in the first place, defying the orders they said unfairly targeted their sector, as others like the food and hospitality one remained untouched.
Other measures remain in place
“We have taken a decision today after consultation with all the governments of the country and after intensive consultation based on the scientific data on the culture,” Minister Verlinden told VRT on Wednesday evening, after the Consultative Committee held their virtual emergency meeting.
The other measures taken by the Consultative Committee last week remain in place, “but in the coming days, we will also evaluate this and we will see if we can take other decisions based on the evolution of the Omicron variant, probably sometime next week,” Verlinden said.
A new Consultative Committee, “where we look at and discuss with all governments concerned what measures are necessary and appropriate,” will probably take place next week, but it is up to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) to convene it.