For Belgian guitarist, pandemic church concerts a godsend

Clavier (Belgique) (AFP) –


A plucky Belgian guitarist fed up with an ongoing Covid ban on giving concerts has turned to performing in churches, where up to 15 people are allowed to congregate if masked and seated far apart.

Quentin Dujardin is relying on that loophole to get around a prohibition on playing in public that could otherwise see him fined 4,000 euros ($4,800), and each member of the audience 250 euros, as part of a law designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He first tested that ban on February 14 with a protest concert in a small church in southern Belgium. Although police had him prosecuted, a court threw out the case.

"No expert can say that I'm more contagious than a priest," said Dujardin, who has scheduled more than a dozen concerts this month in a 12th-century chapel in the town of Clavier.

The musician -- a 43-year-old former choir-boy who has moved from classical to jazz and world music -- and many Belgian artists are furious that performances have been banned for nearly six months in Belgium.

They point to a March 31 ruling by a Brussels court that ordered the government to revise its pandemic law or see some of its anti-Covid measures struck down. But the government has appealed that decision and is maintaining its curbs.

Belgium is currently in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic, which has in total claimed more than 23,500 lives.

Cafes, restaurants, theatres and concert halls have been closed since the end of October.

The government said this week that outdoor areas of eateries and bars will be able to reopen on May 8, but no decision will be made on the performing arts sector until the next ministerial meeting next week.