Nicolas Maeterlinck

Cultural sector to reopen after Council of State ruling: "Measures were disproportionate"

The Council of State has suspended the government's decision to close the cultural sector as part of a spate of measures to curb the spreading of corona virus. Theatre rooms, concert halls, operas and cinemas are allowed to reopen under conditions. As the Council of State's decision applies immediately, some reopenings will already take place today and tonight. The different governments have adapted the measures officially today during an online emergency meeting. 

The different Belgian governments had come together on 22 December to work out new corona restrictions in a new Consultative Committee. They decided to ban all cultural events like theatre shows, operas, circus acts and small concerts, although these were only possible with a maximum of 200 guests indoors, while respecting other corona rules such as social distancing, face masks and a corona passport.  

The pubs and restaurants were allowed to stay open meanwhile, as were outdoor Christmas markets, non-essential shops etc. The cultural sector found the new restrictions - which applied as from last Sunday - unfair and took the matter to the Council of State. They won the case: the Council of State called the closure "a disproportionate measure" which "lacked an adequate motivation". 

A disproportionate measure that lacks an adequate motivation

The Council of State

Back to the old situation

Cultural events with up to 200 people will be possible again, and cinemas will also get the green light to reopen.

Decision-makers went back to the situation as it was just before the last Consultative Committee, with a maximum of 200 people allowed in indoor venues under other basic corona rules. They held a digital meeting during the course of the day, with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden preparing a new text to be published in one of the coming days. 

However, many performers didn't wait that long and scheduled a show for tonight. Other (bigger) players, like the Kinepolis cinema group, need more time to get organised and will open in the weekend. 

Political pundits say that the latest development is a slap in the face for the various governments that had worked out the measures. Only yesterday, just before the ruling, the federal government had talks with representatives of the cultural sector but it refused to relax the restrictions. The general feeling is also that this ruling is just a first, and that governments will have to be very careful in the future before deciding on new restrictions. 

"Historic ruling"

The cultural sector had staged several protest against the latest restrictions and is happy that they won the case. Actor and director Stany Crets calls the ruling of the Council of State "historic, not only for the cultural sector but also for the government's corona policies in general". 

Stany Crets and the former actor Michaël Pas, two frontrunners of the cultural protests, underlined that while the ruling sets a first, it is still mainly symbolic as crowds of maximum 200 people are much too small for the cultural sector to be up and running again. "However, politicians will have to think twice in the future before taking disproportionate corona measures." 

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