Fury as Belgium cuts audiences to 200

Cultural leaders in Belgium have issued a collective protest over new Covid rules that cut ther audiences – but leave bars open.

Here’s the text, signed by Peter de Caluwe (La Monnaie), Sophie Lauwers (Bozar), Hans Waege (Belgian National Orchestra), Pierre Thys (National Theatre Wallonie-Brussels) and Michael De Cock (Royal Flemish Schouwburg):

Our cultural houses are shocked this time by the political decision-making that in no way respects reality . We sign a strong opposition against so-called supplementary measures that create a false perception . We have the feeling of being sacrificed to keep other sectors open for a while. It is impossible for us to reinvest while playing for a maximum of 200 spectators. The irrational measure is economically unattainable after a year of constant income losses .
Many culture houses have developed detailed, thoroughly thought out scenarios, invested, and trained their employees over the past eighteen months. None of this titanic work has been taken into consideration. The strict cull of the cultural sector ought to be based on principles of good governance and the rule of law … We ask ourselves what research data caused culture to be so penalised.
Aside from the duty of face masks, the CST control and good air quality ensure that the situation in our halls is absolutely safe . Repeated scientific and certified research proves that, in the case of the Monnai, in full room occupation, there is always more than the allowed maximum of 1200 ppm . Setting up an objective barometer to monitor and have these issues controlled in all transparency by as many institutions as possible is a simple and preventive solution .
Absolute numbers don’t stop because each hall is different and 200 people in some homes represent half the maximum capacity and in other halls only a sixth . We advocate for an individual approach to the problem that takes into account the real situation that is different for every cultural home . We are perfectly able to measure and have every performance checked that everything runs safely for both artists and the public and staff . Our homes can stay open and we expect the generic measure to be exchanged for a clear custom solution . When a problem arises, we take action like we’ve been doing for eighteen months .
We dare to hope that negotiations with the government remain possible to prevent this constant adjustment of the rules and to maintain a long-term vision that we can live together with this virus in the coming months or years Objective ways to apply . Last but not least: Of course we understand the seriousness of the situation and we remain in solidarity with the care sector . The curve has to go down and we’ll keep that in our practice completely into account .

 

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