Saturday 01 April 2023

Testing for access ‘kiss of death’ for museums, theatres, cinemas

Credit: Alex Nicholls-Lee

Museum and theatre directors have made a public appeal to MPs to reconsider their support for new legislation which will introduce testing to allow people to visit museums, theatres and cinemas, and to accept the protocols already in place instead.

The legislation will be subject to a vote on Tuesday and will then have to be approved by the senate. Many MPs have already said they would back testing, but also questioned cost and privacy issues.

The cultural sector views the new legislation, which may be extended if coronavirus cases increase, as ‘yet another impediment to cultural visits’.  Ann de Meester of the Frans Halsmuseum and National Dutch ballet & opera chief Stijn Schoonderwoerd are among those signing the open letter to Dutch papers NRC and Parool.

‘The new legislation may be a solution for festivals and mass events such as sports games where many people are crammed together but it is the kiss of death for museums, theatres, concert halls and cinemas,’ the letter reads.

Testing for access is a step too far for many and will only worsen the financial position of many venues, they say. This will necessitate more financial support once the legislation is passed, the signatories warned, which will come on top of the €1bn the state-funded testing system will cost.

It is ‘astounding’ that the protocols in place, which has proven to be safe have not been taken into account by health minister Hugo de Jonge, they said. ‘The months during which museums, theatres and cinemas were open did not lead to extra outbreaks of coronavirus infections, showing it could be done safely, without extra legislation or investment,’ the letter read.

Pilot events in April also showed that there is widespread reluctance to have a test before an outing. Just 16,000 people bought a museum ticket, but there were 37,000 available.

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