Cultural Institutions in Belgium Express Angst Over Latest Restrictions by the Government

By Dejan Vukosavljevic
(Credit: Visit Brussels)

Several cultural institutions in Belgium issued a joint statement following the decision of the government of Belgium to limit seating capacity to 200 spectators.

The statement was signed by the General and Artistic Director of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie Peter de Caluwe; General Director of Bozar Sophie Lauwers; Intendant de l’Orchestre National de Belgique Hans Waege; General and Artistic Director of the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles Pierre Thys; and Artistic Director of the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg Michael De Cock.

“This time, our cultural centers are truly shocked by the political decision-making process which in no way respects reality. We categorically oppose measures which are intended only to create a false perception. We feel that we have been sacrificed to allow other sectors to remain open. We would like to state that it is impossible for us to make any further investments in order to play for a maximum of 200 spectators. This measure is insane but also economically impractical after a year of continued loss of income,” the organizations said in the statement.

“Over the past 18 months, a large number of professional cultural centers have developed detailed and carefully considered scenarios, made considerable investments and provided various training courses for their staff. However, this titanic work seems to have received very little consideration. Strictly targeting the cultural sector requires detailed justification, respecting the principles of good governance and the rule of law. In our view, this rationale must be framed in relation to knowledge, research and empirical evidence. We wonder what research data would justify cultural institutions being harmed by such drastic rules,” the institutions added.

“Applying the same upper limit to everyone does not make sense, because every room is different, and the sum of 200 people is in some houses half the total capacity and in others, only a sixth. We advocate an individual approach to the problem that takes into account the real situation, which is different for each cultural house. Our homes can remain open and we expect this generic measure to be replaced with a clear, tailor-made solution. Last but not least, we of course understand the gravity of the situation and remain united with the healthcare sector.”

Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège has issued a statement protesting over new measures.

Belgium is undergoing a new COVID-19 wave driven by the Delta variant. The country has logged 17,910 new cases on Dec. 3, 2021.