Belgium reverses COVID cultural rules: The show must go on!

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium reversed some of its COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday, allowing for the reopening of cinemas, theaters and concert halls.

The move was a victory for the culture sector, which said it was being unfairly targeted by the rules.

The Belgian government and regional authorities had come under increasing pressure to undo last week’s decision on closures, which weren’t even backed by scientific experts. It highlighted the widening fault line between authorities trying to keep the pandemic at bay with on-the-spot decisions and a public increasingly frustrated by limits on their personal freedoms.

“We heeded the call of the cultural sector,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said.

There was rejoicing in movie theaters.

“We are thrilled that we resisted and in the end we won what we had started,” said Peggy Fol, director of the Vendome Cinema in uptown Brussels. “We were disgusted that they hit on culture like that.”

The authorities unexpectedly decided last week to close theaters and concert halls to contain the surging omicron variant. But late Tuesday, the judicial Council of State ruled the measures weren’t “proportionate,” and questioned “why going to cultural sector performance venues was particularly dangerous for public health.”

The ruling came after a protest of thousands from the theater sector on Sunday and a legal appeal to the Council of State. Even if the decision of the court concerned the theater halls only, the government extended it to movie theaters too.

Now, they will be able to open to a maximum of 200 people depending on the size of the room. Wearing face masks and having a COVID-19 pass will be mandatory.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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