Belgium Shuts Down Theaters, Concert Halls Due to Omicron Threat

Belgium will be shutting down theaters and concert halls starting Dec. 26 to curb a surge in COVID cases and prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

The restrictions were announced by Belgium prime minister Alexander De Croo on Wednesday, Dec. 22, at a press conference. Restaurants and bars will remain open with an 11 p.m. curfew. There were 7,025 new cases over the last seven days in Belgium, with Omicron accounting for 27% of them, according to Franceinfo.

Belgium is the latest European country to set tight restrictions due to the Omicron threat. The Netherlands just announced a Christmas lockdown that will kick off on Sunday and run through at least mid-January, forcing the International Film Festival Rotterdam to move its upcoming edition online.

With Belgium, Denmark is the only other European country to have shut down cinemas. Iceland and Norway have also restricted gatherings, including at cinemas and other cultural events, where the audience has been limited to 50 in Iceland. In France, where the fifth wave of COVID-19 caused a record 84,272 cases on Wednesday, only night clubs have been closed. Germany, meanwhile, has imposed restrictions on private gatherings, cultural events and concerts, but theaters have been spared. The Berlin Film Festival is committed to returning with an in-person edition as long as cinemas remain open, Berlinale executive director Mariette Rissenbeek and artistic director Carlo Chatrian told Variety on Monday.

So far, theaters have remained open in most countries, as studies have shown that there has been a low incidence of Covid infections there as compared with bars or night clubs.

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