Announced last week by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, the closure of Belgian theaters, cinemas and performance halls, intended to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, has finally been suspended. The Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, considered that this measure was, as it stood, not justified.
The court decision, issued on Tuesday, December 28, concludes that the Belgian authorities have not been able to demonstrate “how theaters in the cultural sector are particularly dangerous places for the health and life of people as a they would promote the spread of the coronavirus, to the point that it is necessary to order its closure ”.
“Inconsistency” and “aberration”
Announced on December 22, the measure angered the Belgian cultural world, leading several thousand people, 5,000 according to the police, to demonstrate on Sunday December 26 in Brussels. The producer of a show scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday in Auderghem, one of the municipalities of the capital, had seized the Council of State in the wake.
And the authority therefore agreed with him, with this suspension, with immediate effect, of the restrictions announced by the authorities. This arbitration goes in the direction of several health experts, who had publicly denounced the “inconsistency” or even the “aberration” which, according to them, represented the closure of cultural places in Belgium. Particularly when cafes and restaurants were allowed to remain open.
The government cannot appeal against this decision, and the decision of the Council of State will remain valid until a decision is taken on the merits. Which could take several months. This suspension however relates only to the request of the producer who seized the Council of State and therefore does not concern all establishments, in particular cinemas. However, the latter are the subject of other legal remedies which, because of this case law, may lead to similar decisions.
Certain Belgian establishments, cinemas or theaters in Brussels, Namur or even Liège, do not intend to wait for the result of these steps anyway: they have already announced their intention to defy the prohibited, remaining open.