BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgian theatres and other cultural venues won an initial legal victory on Tuesday to reopen after the government ordered their closure as part of coronavirus restrictions to curb a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.
The Council of State, Belgium’s supreme administrative court, suspended the government’s closure order that was only announced last week and took effect from Sunday, saying it was “disproportionate”.
It said in a ruling published on Tuesday that, even if the Omicron variant required further restrictions, the government needed to show why a given measure was needed on public health grounds. The court still needs to make a final ruling.
It is not entirely clear what counts as a cultural venue, but it will not include cinemas and other indoor venues, such as for bowling, or night clubs.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s government and regional chiefs decided last Wednesday to close cinemas and theatres and play sporting fixtures behind closed doors, while allowing bars, restaurants, gyms and other indoor sports venues to continue as before.
Belgium, home to European Union institutions and the headquarters of NATO, has seen COVID-19 infections continually fall since a late November peak, but Omicron cases are rapidly rising, and now make up over half of all COVID-19 cases.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)