BRUSSELS (AP) – Belgium turned over some of its COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, allowing for the reopening of cinemas, theaters and concert halls.
The move was a victory for the cultural sector, which said it was 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 was not even backed by scientific experts. It highlighted the growing breaking point between authorities trying to keep the pandemic in check with on-the-spot decisions and a public that is increasingly frustrated with restrictions on their personal freedoms.
“We followed the call from the cultural sector,” said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.
There was jubilation in the cinemas.
“We are thrilled that we resisted, and in the end we won what we had started,” said Peggy Fol, director of Vendome Cinema in the interior of Brussels. “We were disgusted that they hit culture that way.”
Authorities unexpectedly decided last week to close theaters and concert halls to curb the rising omicron variant. But late Tuesday, the Justice Department ruled the measures were not “proportionate” and questioned “why it was particularly dangerous for public health to go to the places of performance of the cultural sector.”
The ruling came after a protest by thousands from the theater sector on Sunday and a legal appeal to the Council of State. Although the court’s decision only concerned theaters, the government extended it to include cinemas.
Now they will be able to open a maximum of 200 people depending on the size of the room. It is mandatory to wear face masks and have a COVID-19 passport.
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