“No culture, no future”: Belgian cultural workers protest against COVID measures
Thousands of Belgian artists, cinema operators, event planners and others gathered on Sunday to protest the government’s decision to shut down the country’s cultural life to stem the spread of the Omicron variant in booming.
Waving posters reading “The show must continue” or “No culture, no future”, a crowd of around 5,000 people demonstrated peacefully despite the pouring rain, accusing the government of unfairly targeting the cultural industry with new virus restrictions.
Under the measures, which took effect on Sunday, events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their uproar and chaos gluhwein or mulled wine parties, and restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open with new restrictions.
Even the scientific committee advising the Belgian government had not called for the closure of the culture industry, leaving the virologist Marc Van Ranst to wonder that in Belgium “gluhwein beats culture”.
Dozens of cinemas and other venues ignored the closing order, according to state broadcaster RTBF.
A fanfare accompanied Sunday’s demonstration at the Mont des Arts in Brussels, a symbolic place that gave birth to the independence of Belgium in 1830, and prominent cultural figures took the stage to express their grievances.
Organizers urged attendees to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Under the new rules, indoor public activities are strictly limited, shopping is limited, and sports fans will not be allowed into stadiums and indoor venues.
However, the Belgian government has avoided a full lockdown like the one imposed on neighboring Netherlands for the holiday season.
After nearly two years of forced closures and limited openings, the culture industry had hoped that its efforts, including special air quality meters in the halls, separate seating, and limited visitor capacities, had it would escape the weight of virus restrictions.
The Belgian measures come despite a constant drop in hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 in recent weeks.
The government said the rapid transmission of the Omicron variant made it necessary to take preventive measures.
Belgium has recorded more than 2 million cases with at least 28,149 deaths since the start of the pandemic.