France’s Council of State administrative court has rejected an appeal from the culture industry to reopen their venues, ruling that the Covid-19 epidemic justified the closures but also leaving the door open to an early reopening if infection rates improve.
Groups from France’s culture sector filed a challenge to the government’s order to close cinemas, theatres and concert halls due to the Covid-19 epidemic, arguing their venues were easily adaptable to ensure the safety of spectators.
The court ruled however that a worsening situation justified the closures, which came into effect when President Emmanuel Macron announced new restrictions would come into effect on 30 October.
In its ruling, the court said the closures “did not represent an illegal infringement on fundamental freedoms” as lawyers had argued, due to the heightened spread of the coronavirus causing Covid-19, which is currently infecting about 12,000 people per day.
But the court did rule in favour of some arguments, observing many venues had taken adequate measures to protect their audiences and ruling that closures would not be justified if the overall situation improved.
“The closure is only legal insofar as there is a particularly high level of spread of the virus among the population,” the ruling read.
Lawyers representing the cultural actors said they were disappointed venues would remain closed but happy with the acknowledgement of the measures taken.
“The Council of State evoked the adequacy of strict health protocols and the serious infringement on freedoms,” the lawyers said.
“As soon as the situation improves, theatres expect the government will take note of this important ruling from the Council of State and the reasoning behind it.”
The government pushed back a reopening date for venues from 15 December to 7 January when improvements in the second wave of the epidemic only went half-way to meeting targets.
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