Country reports


Expert authors: Simon Leenknegt (Flanders) and Emilie Tondreau (Wallonie-Brussels)
Last update: April 2022 (Flanders) and July 2021 (Wallonie-Brussels)

Timeline of containment measures

Below you will find a chronological overview of containment measures against the spread of the COVID-19 virus taken by the federal government in Belgium throughout 2020-2022. The overview is limited to measures that had direct repercussions for arts and culture. The starting date of the containment measures is mentioned each time.

The governments of Flanders, the Brussels-Capital Region, the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles, and the Walloon Region, and the local governments took additional measures with an impact on the cultural sector (e.g. regional or local prohibitions of events). These are not mentioned in this overview.

A more comprehensive timeline (in Dutch) mentioning containment measures in the Flemish Region and the Brussels-Capital Region can be consulted through the website of Flanders Arts Institute.


March 10, 2020 Prohibition of (cultural) events with 1,000+ audience
March 14, 2020 Prohibition of all public events
March 17, 2020 Complete lockdown in Belgium
May 4, 2020 Relaxation phase 1a: workplaces of professional cultural organisations can open again
11 May 2020 Relaxation phase 1b: non-essential store open
May 18, 2020 Relaxation phase 2: schools, exhibition spaces, and libraries can open again
June 8, 2020 Relaxation phase 3: activities without audience in cultural institutions (e.g. rehearsals) allowed again (except if vocals, wind instruments, or close contact are involved)
July 1, 2020 Cinemas, theatre and music venues are open to the public again (limited to 200 people inside and 400 outside), if approved by the local government
July 11, 2020 Mouth masks become mandatory in shops and cultural institutions
July 25, 2020 Mouth masks become mandatory at all cultural events (also in open air), mandatory registration of visitors to cinemas, bars, and restaurants
July 29, 2020 New restrictions, e.g. additional limitation of audiences at events (100 people inside, 200 outside)
September 1, 2020 Relaxation of measures regarding professional cultural events. Audiences up to 200 people inside and 400 outside allowed again
October 19, 2020 A curfew (0h00 to 5h00) is installed
October 23, 2020 Further restrictions for cultural events: social distancing of 1.5 m between audience members is mandatory
November 2, 2020 Second Lockdown. All non-essential stores are closed and telework becomes mandatory. National borders remain open. Work behind the scenes in cultural institutions (e.g. rehearsals, artists in residence) is still admitted if the people involved can present a labour contract
December 1, 2020 Relaxation phase. Exhibition spaces (including museums) and shops are open to the public again. Work behind the scenes in cultural institutions admitted if the people involved can present an official statement of the employer
December 20, 2020 Borders with the United Kingdom are closed
December 30, 2020 Additional restrictions on testing and quarantine for travellers from red zones abroad


January 27, 2021 Non-essential trips abroad prohibited
March 8, 2021 (Cultural) outdoor activities up to 10 people admitted again
March 27, 2021 “Easter break” with temporary additional restrictions: outdoor gatherings (including cultural activities) of more than 4 people banned, non-essential stores only open by appointment. Additional week of Easter holidays in schools
April 19, 2021 Relaxation of restrictions for (cultural activities in) schools, public part-time education in the arts can open again
April 26, 2021 Outdoor gatherings (including cultural activities) up to 10 people are allowed. Non-essential stores (e.g. private art galleries) can open without customer registration
May 8, 2021 Installing relaxation phases is now dependent on the vaccination rate of the Belgian population and the available capacity of hospital beds in ICU. A gathering ban replaces the curfew. “Outdoor plan” is activated, which means that ‘organised’ outdoor activities (e.g. rehearsals, educational art activities, guided tours etc.) up to 25 people and professional cultural outdoor events up to 50 people are allowed
June 9, 2021 “Summer plan” is installed. Indoor (cultural) events up to 200 people allowed. Outdoor events up to 400 people. Closing time for cultural institutions limited to 23h30
June 25, 2021 Outdoor and indoor ‘organised activities’ (e.g. rehearsals, educational art activities, guided tours etc.) up to 100 participants allowed
June 27, 2021 (Cultural) events up to 2,000 people indoor and 2,500 outdoor allowed if audience members can present a valid COVID Safe Ticket (= the EU Digital COVID Certificate). Non-essential journeys abroad are possible again. Closing time for cultural houses is now 1h00
July 30, 2021 Audience capacity of (cultural) events is now up to 3,000 people indoor and 5,000 outdoor, if COVID Safe Ticket is applied. ‘Organised activities’ (e.g. youth camps, educational art activities, guided tours etc.) up to 200 people indoor and outdoor allowed. Monitoring CO2-levels is mandatory in event spaces. If the level reaches 900 ppm, organisations must have an action plan for air purification
August 13, 2021 Mass gatherings up to 75,000 people (e.g. festivals) allowed, provided that audience members wear mouth masks, apply social distancing and can present a valid COVID Safe Ticket
September 1, 2021 Monitoring air quality is now mandatory in all indoor spaces open to the public
October 1, 2021 Standards for air quality in public indoor spaces specified: if CO2-levels rise above 1,200, systems for air filtration must be activated
November 20, 2021 Applying COVID Safe Ticket becomes mandatory for every (cultural) event with 50 people indoor or 100 outdoor. Attending outdoor events now also implies wearing a mouth mask. Minimum age for wearing mouth masks lowered to 10 years
November 27, 2021 Restrictions for (cultural) events remain, but the audience at indoor events must now remain seated. Private meetings (a new legal definition includes rehearsals by amateur artists) can only take place at home or outdoors. Rehearsals by professional artists and (artistic) workshops remain possible
December 4, 2021 Indoor events with an audience over 4,000 prohibited. COVID Safe Ticket becomes mandatory for all events (indoor and outdoor) over 50 people. Minimum age for wearing mouth masks lowered to 6 years
December 6, 2021 Audience limit at indoor (cultural) events restricted to a maximum of 200 people
December 26, 2021 All indoor events are banned. Outdoor events confined to 1 spectator / 4m². Organised activities (including rehearsals and workshops) inside cultural institutions are prohibited. Exhibition spaces and libraries remain open
December 28, 2021 A judgement of the Council of State abolishes the restrictions of 26 December 2022
December 30, 2021 A Royal Decree is issued that restores the restrictions on cultural events and organised activities prior to 26 December 2022


January 28, 2022 A “Coronavirus Barometer” is installed. The barometer starts in code red. Indoor public events (performances, concerts, cinema etc.) only possible if the audience is seated and at 70% of capacity. An air quality threshold of 1,200 ppm cannot be exceeded. If air quality is kept under 900ppm, an indoor audience capacity of 100% is possible. “Leisure activities” (workshops, rehearsals, etc.) limited to 80 people indoor and 200 outdoor
February 18, 2022 Code orange of the Coronavirus Barometer. Indoor public events with a standing and moving audience possible again (mouth mask no longer obliged). “Leisure activities” (workshops, rehearsals, youth camps) can be organised with up to 200 participants indoor and outdoor. Obligation for teleworking lifted. Threshold for air quality is heightened to 1,500 ppm. Indoor public events not surpassing the threshold can be organised at 80% of the maximum audience capacity of the infrastructure. Events up to 200 can always take place (no matter air quality). Minimum age for wearing mouth mask reset at 12 years
March 7, 2022 Code yellow of the Coronavirus Barometer. Nearly all measures for public events and “leisure activities” expire. Audience capacity is now standard 100%
June 30, 2022 Provisional end of the Coronavirus Barometer

Selected overview of support measures by higher government levels

This overview provides a selection of government support measures that were installed or adjusted throughout 2020-2022 and that artists and/or cultural organisations can/could apply for.

The selected overview is ordered according to the level of government. The term artists or organisations could apply for and use these tends to vary. Some (parts of) measures were installed early on in 2020 and were prolonged or reinstalled throughout the following two years. Others were made available for a more limited timespan – or until funds ran out.

A more comprehensive list (in Dutch) of relevant support measures (including initiatives by private institutions) in Flanders and Brussels can be consulted through the website of Flanders Arts Institute.

Federal Government

  • Belgium already had a system of temporary unemployment, in which employers (among them cultural organisations) can apply for a temporary unemployment benefit to be granted to their employees, if work is obstructed in case of force majeure. The consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have been recognized as such and conditions for applying for and receiving the benefit were made more flexible. Short-term contracts — frequently used by artists — were recognized as leverage for obtaining temporary unemployment. Equally important is that, under certain conditions, artists and temporary employees of festivals or other events could also apply if they could present proof of a deal with an employer, other than a signed contract.
  • If independent (art and culture) workers were forced to stop activities because of (measures taken to contain) the crisis, they could apply for a special form of the already existing ‘overbruggingsrecht’ (literally: ‘the right to bridge over’). This entitled them to a full or partial benefit. People working independently part time could also apply in certain conditions (related to the height of their income or to fiscal arrangements).
  • The conditions of Tax Shelter agreements — aimed at facilitating private investments in audiovisual productions and performing arts — have been adjusted to help producers to bridge the gap in expenditure. Next to these, (temporary) tax shelter schemes were installed to stimulate private investments in small enterprises.
  • Different measures have been taken throughout 2020-2021 for independents, entrepreneurs, and employers to enable them to apply for a temporary exemption from or reduction in tax (pre-)payments. Some of these exemptions were also specifically aimed at the cultural and event sector.
  • The conditions of the unemployment framework for artists have changed. In order to be eligible for certain benefits of this framework — for example the flexible combination of unemployment benefits and artistic jobs — artists need to prove that they carried out artistic jobs for a certain period. Since this was compromised by the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Government (temporarily) adjusted the prerequisites. In 2021, the monthly unemployment benefits of people entitled to this ‘social status of the artist’ were temporarily raised.
  • In 2021, ca. EUR 19 million was made available to partially compensate artists’ loss of income through copyright or related rights. The distribution of these funds was done through the collective management organisations (Sabam, PlayRight, deAuteurs, SOFAM, etc.). Also artists who were not a member of these (private) organisations could apply for the compensation.

Flemish Government

The competences of the Flemish Government pertain to either the Flemish Community (e.g. Culture, Youth, Media) or the Flemish Region (e.g. Economy, Tourism). This is an important difference as artists and organisations living in the Brussels-Capital Region could apply for support measures related to the Flemish Community but (in most cases) not for those pertaining to the Flemish Region.

Applicable to Flemish Community (Flanders and Brussels)

  • An Emergency Fund of EUR 265 million for different sectors was launched in June 2020. EUR 65 million was directed at the cultural sector. Support measures issued from these funds include:
    • Compensation for structurally funded cultural organisations (applications ran during summer of 2020). The government expected them to both cover their own losses and distribute the support to non-subsidized organisations and individuals within their networks
    • EUR 29 million of support for ‘vulnerable core players’ (‘kwetsbare kernspelers’): during the summer of 2020, artists and cultural organisations not entitled to other support measures by the regional and federal governments could apply for a premium of EUR 1,500
    • The Flemish Audiovisual Fund and Flanders Literature each received a part of the Emergency Fund in order to compensate those affected by the crisis in their respective sectors. These budgets were invested in flexible support measures for productions or events.
    • Another part of the Emergency Fund was redirected to Hefboom, an organisation providing loans tailored to the cultural sector. These budgets were used for ‘Herstel-Cultuurkredieten’, zero-interest recovery loans. In 2021, additional government budgets were invested in providing these loans and the application term was prolonged (as part of the package of measures proposed by the Taskforce for Culture, see below).
    • In late 2020, ca. EUR 35 million of the Emergency Fund was invested in a ‘Culturele Activiteitenpremie’ (‘cultural activity premium’): artists and organisations could apply for project funding (between EUR 2,000 and 20,000) for organising a cultural activity involving a (digital or live) audience and employing at least two artists or cultural workers.
  • At the beginning of the parliamentary session of 2020-2021, the Flemish Government launched its Recovery Plan Flemish Resilience (‘Vlaamse Veerkracht’). It totalled a budget of EUR 4,3 billion of one-time investments. A substantial part of this budget comes from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility. Flemish Resilience encompasses 180 different projects for recovery in the Flemish Community and Flemish Region. Among these:
    • EUR 99 million investments in cultural infrastructure projects
    • EUR 46 million for digitization projects in Culture and Media
    • EUR 30 million for support for audiovisual production (film, television series, and games)
    • A Recovery Plan for Tourism, including EUR 10 million for ‘Flanders Is A Festival’, a one-time call for innovating festival projects in 2021
  • An official Taskforce for Culture proposed a number of one-time support measures, which were carried out in 2021 and totalled a budget of ca. EUR 10 million. These included an additional budget (EUR 3.75 million extra) for acquisitions of contemporary art for the Collection of the Flemish Community. EUR 5 million was used for setting up the Innovation Mechanism. Through this, people and organisations from the cultural field could apply for a sum of money needed to transform their business model.
  • The Flemish Department of Culture was lenient when funding recipients needed to account for their subsidised activities, reckoning the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Rounds of regular project funding for the arts proceeded throughout the COVID-19 crisis. The procedures for project funding were temporarily adjusted, such as a reduction in the number of people in the peer review commissions that give advice on applications.

Applicable to Flemish Region (Flanders)

  • An impediment fee (‘hinderpremie’) of EUR 4,000 for businesses, independents, and organisations employing at least one full time employee (including those in the arts and culture sector), who were forced to close due to decisions on the federal level. The amount was given once, but smaller, recurring fees could be added. Only those providing services to an audience in a physical location (e.g., a theatre, an exhibition room, a store, a travelling circus tent etc.) were eligible.
  • A compensation fee (‘compensatiepremie’) of EUR 3,000 for businesses, independents, and organisations employing at least one full time employee that suffered a loss in income of 60% or more. Those working in arts and culture were included. Contrary to the impediment fee, this measure also applied for organisations or businesses that do not provide services to an audience on a physical location.
  • The conditions of an existing stimulation fee (‘aanmoedigingspremie’) — aimed at (cultural) businesses in financial distress that keep employees in part time employment in order to avoid firing them — were modified. Businesses suffering financial losses of 20% or more due to the COVID-19 crisis could also apply.
  • Businesses could postpone the payment of certain taxes levied by the Flemish Government.
  • EUR 87.3 million of the aforementioned EUR 265 million Emergency Fund went to local governments. Although not earmarked, the Flemish Government expected that part of this budget was to be spent on supporting local cultural scenes.
  • In addition to the Emergency Fund, the Flemish Government provided an extra EUR 31.25 million of loans and warrants.
  • See above for projects pertaining to competences of the Flemish region (e.g. Tourism) within the frame of the Flemish Resilience Recovery Plan.
  • Between September 2020 and May 2022, event organisers (e.g. festival organisers) could apply to the Flemish Government for a deposit covering 60% of the costs of an event. The deposit was to be repaid unless containment measures prohibited the event. In 2021, the Flemish Government also offered a premium for organisers who had to cancel their events in 2020 or 2021 (‘omboekingspremie’).
  • Businesses that were obliged to close during the second lockdown (starting in November 2020) could apply for the Flemish Protection Mechanism. As later containment measures continued to affect certain sectors (such as the cultural sector, club owners, and event organisers), different application rounds were organised until the beginning of 2022.
  • Businesses subject to financial loss (at least 60% of previous regular turnover) between April and December 2020 could apply in 2021 for compensation through the ‘Globalisation Mechanism’.
  • With the advent of standards for air quality in 2021, the government agency Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship provided in 2022 loans with attractive conditions for businesses wanting to invest in ventilation.

Brussels-Capital Region

  • A one-time compensation fee of EUR 2,000 for small independent companies (up to 5 full time employees), under certain conditions.
  • A one-time impediment fee of EUR 4,000 for businesses. Contrary to the impediment fee in the Flemish Region, cultural organisations were not eligible, except for cinemas, businesses offering “recreational activities”, and bookstores.
  • Together with the Flemish Community Commission (VGC, which acts as a representative of the Flemish Community in the Brussels-Capital Region) and the COCOF (which acts as a representative of the French Community), the government of the Brussels-Capital Region launched an emergency fund of EUR 8,4 million for the cultural sector in 2020. This fund was distributed through one-time fees of EUR 2,000 for affected organisations (both profit and non-profit) and through a fund of EUR 5 million aimed at cultural workers who could not benefit from other forms of support (each fee was max. EUR 1,500).
  • In 2021, the Tetra Premium was made available for cultural and event organisations, in order to compensate for loss of turnover in 2020. A second round (Tetra Premium +) was held later on in 2021, with adjusted conditions for applying.
  • The Brussels-Capital Region Government also installed a Premium for non-essential sectors. Businesses from Culture or other ‘non-essential’ sectors could apply for a maximum of EUR 5,000. The first round was organised when these businesses had to close during the second lockdown (November 2020). A second round came with the so-called ‘Easter Break’ (March 2021).
  • In the second half of 2021, the Brussels-Capital Region launched a support package for the event sector, culture, tourism, sports, the club scene, the catering industry, and their supply chains, which totalled EUR 66 million. The largest part of this budget was used for a recovery premium for businesses active in one of the mentioned sectors. An additional support premium was available for all, except the catering industry. This support premium was devised as a follow-up to the Tetra Premiums. Another part of the support package was a special loan scheme (‘thesaurielening’) tailored to the event and culture sector.
  • In 2022, the Brussels Guarantee Fund was activated, on which event organisers can rely to compensate unavoidable costs of events that are faced with cancellation, postponement, or audience limitation as a consequence of containment measures.
  • The payment of certain taxes levied by the Brussels-Capital Government was postponed.

Wallonia- Brussels Federation

These support measures apply to the territory of the Walloon Region – except the territory of the German-speaking Community and the Brussels-Capital Region.

  • Guarantee of the grants despite the crisis and speeding up the payment of the various grants.
  • Loan guarantee for sectors and operators who could encounter difficulties in accessing credit due to the COVID-19 crisis and facilitate access to loaning with a crowdfunding mechanism (citizens, businesses and insurers).
  • Emergency fund
    • In April 2020, an emergency fund of EUR 50 million was established to provide assistance to affected sectors whose viability is in danger (culture, equal opportunities, education, youth, sport, etc.). The organisations benefiting from the emergency fund will have to ensure the remuneration of the final service providers (for example, for culture: companies, artists, etc.). Of the EUR 50 million, an amount of EUR 8,6 million was dedicated for cultural operators suffering significant loss of revenue due to the cancellation of activities or the closure of the premises during the period March 15 to May 4.
    • On May 29, 2020, the following funds were announced:
      • an additional amount of EUR 8,5 million for cultural operators for the period May 4 to July 5;
      • an additional amount of EUR 2,5 million to support festivals for the period May 5 to August 31;
      • an exceptional grant of EUR 1 million to support artistic sectors in difficulty in the context of international dissemination for the period March 13 to June 30.
    • Emergency loan launched by the ST’Art investment fund for the treasury (cash-flow) of cultural and creative enterprises. This product would be available for a period of 6 months (possibly renewable for 6 months) for an amount of EUR 20.000 to 100.000 with a fixed rate of 2%.

Sector-specific measures

  • Measures for the audiovisual sector
    • On April 14, 2020, WBF approved the following emergency measures for audiovisual professionals to cope with the health crisis:
      • Removal of the obligation to reimburse advances on receipts received in 2019
      • Production assistance: extension of approval deadlines and validity of contracts
      • Modification relating to reinvestment premiums
    • On May 22, 2020, a recovery plan for the audiovisual sector was announced (EUR 6 million):
      • Measures for the benefit of authors
        • Implementation of a new system of aid for writing and development in September 2020.
        • Launch of several calls for projects for the benefit of authors.
      • Re-opening of cinemas: measures for the benefit of exhibitors and distributors supported by the FWB
        • Coverage of the cost of health measures linked to the reopening of cinemas for arthouse exhibitors (gels, masks, equipment, etc. necessary to ensure a maximum degree of safety in terms of hygiene).
        • Purchase of 20.000 cinema seats in FWB-supported cinemas.
        • Specific support will be put in place to encourage distributors who take the risk of releasing arthouse films as soon as theatres reopen.
        • Promotional campaign for the reopening of arthouse cinemas will be launched to encourage spectators to return to the movie theatres.
      • Measures envisaged for the benefit of producers
        • Coverage of the additional costs linked to the COVID-19 measures on the shooting of French-speaking Belgian-initiative films – and possibly series – until December 2020.
        • Increase in production aid from the Cinema Commission by 20% for feature films, short films, documentaries and Lab films in 2020 and 2021.
        • Increase in aid for Belgian series: bonus of between EUR 100.000 and 150.000 per series.
      • On April 30, 2020, a plan to assist the media and journalists was adopted:
        • A communication campaign: the Government undertook to purchase advertising space for a communication campaign of public interest in all national, regional and local written and audiovisual media, in order to respond to the drastic drop in their advertising revenue.
        • Support for the media, the viability of which is threatened due to the COVID-19 crisis: media pluralism is an essential pillar of democracy. In this context, the Government has provided a budget of EUR 3 million to compensate the sector for the loss of revenue caused by the crisis.
        • Direct support for independent journalists through an increase of EUR 550.000 in the resources devoted to the Journalism Fund.
      • On May 29, 2020, a plan to support the book chain was announced:
        • Transversal support for the book chain
          • A massive purchase of Belgian books for EUR 1 million by and for communities (50% for public libraries, 50% for communities welcoming audiences distant from reading) in independent bookstores.
          • A promotion plan for French-speaking Belgian literature of EUR 100.000 to encourage the purchase of productions and encourage the public to return to bookstores.
        • Help for authors: it was decided to set up grants for an amount of EUR 650.000 to help accessible projects impacted by the crisis whatever the professional category (author, publisher, distributor, bookseller).
        • Aid to subsidized actors who have promoted literature in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation for an amount of EUR 60.000.
        • Aid to booksellers:
          • Bookstores can apply for loans to the Bookstore Aid Fund, EUR 160.000.
          • Support for the LIBREL platform, the digital portal for French-speaking booksellers, is increased by EUR 100.000 for the year 2020.
        • Publishers could apply for loan assistance to the Publishing Aid Fund, EUR 600.000.

Walloon Region

These support measures apply to the territory of the Walloon Region.

  • An extraordinary solidarity fund of EUR 233 million in order to support SMEs and the self-employed in the sectors affected by the crisis, through flat-rate compensation:
    • EUR 5.000 for a company completely closed or stopped as a result of decisions adopted by the National Security Council and belonging to one of the following sectors: catering, accommodation, activities of travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities;
    • EUR 2500 for a company that must modify the days of closure without being closed all week in applying the decisions adopted by the National Security Council (personal services like hairdressers until a certain date).
  • Tax payment deadlines: taxpayers will benefit from a suspension of the payment deadline, which will be extended by the period corresponding to the crisis.
  • Get up Wallonia! is an initiative of the Government of Wallonia with the goal to shape the future of Wallonia. The main measures decided and concerning the cultural sector are the following:
    • In terms of economy and employment, EUR 285 million comes on top of the EUR 233 million already allocated in March to support the economy, businesses and the self-employed. It is intended to extend the categories for the lump sum indemnity of EUR 5.000 (it includes arts, performing and recreational activities, cinemas venues), to set up a second lump sum indemnity of EUR 2.500 for the self-employed/companies which were only able to function partially during the confinement period and who benefited from the gateway right.
    • They also make it possible to create a ricochet loan for the self-employed who need cash to pass the course.
    • In order to maintain employment in the social economy and guarantee its sustainability, the immunization of subsidies from associations was decided when the suppression of their activities was linked to the COVID-19 crisis.