BRUSSELS (AP) – In a setback for the Belgian government, an advisory body on Tuesday suspended a Cabinet-ordered shutdown of part of the cultural sector – saying new coronavirus restrictions on theaters are unreasonable.
Under new restrictions that took effect on Sunday, cinemas, concert halls and art centers have been ordered to close. Some remained open in protest. The order was made despite the scientific committee’s assessment advising the government that going to such places poses no additional risk to public health.
In urgent procedure, the Council of State ruled that the measures concerning theaters were “not proportionate” and did not provide sufficient reasons to “understand why going to theaters in the cultural sector was particularly dangerous for public health “.
The Council of State is an advisory body with the legal power to overrule government decisions that it considers illegal.
The move came after a member of a production company made an urgent appeal against the government’s decision to ensure that an end-of-year play can take place in the Brussels suburbs. This should have an impact on the whole sector.
The Minister of Culture of the French-speaking region of Belgium, Bénédicte Linard, welcomed the verdict, and tweeted that “the closure of the theaters has been lifted. There is no point in waiting for a new decision (from the Council of State) to reopen the cinemas. ”
The judgment, which the Council of State described as “provisional”, came after representatives of Belgian actors, performers and cinema operators criticized the government’s decision, calling it baseless, unfair and disproportionate.
After meeting these representatives on Tuesday, Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke told state broadcaster RTBF that “there is no possibility of immediately reviewing the (government’s) decision”.
Thousands of Belgian artists, cinema operators, event planners and others gathered on Sunday to protest the shutdown of the country’s cultural life to stem the spread of the burgeoning omicron variant.
Events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their loud and sometimes chaotic mulled wine parties, while restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open with new restrictions.
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