Museums in London, Denmark, and the Netherlands Shut Down as Omicron Increases Its Hold in Europe
New lockdown measures and virus outbreaks are putting pressure on the sector.
Museums in Denmark and the Netherlands will close as part of new coronavirus lockdown measures being imposed in both countries in reaction to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the disease. The announcements have been met with resignation and disappointment as it will mean further strain on the already stretched museum sector after nearly two years of sporadic closures and reduced capacity.
Meanwhile, in London, the Natural History Museum has had to exceptionally close until December 27 due to an “unforseen staff shortage caused by COVID-19” according to a statement on Twitter. It is not the only museum impacted by the crisis, as the Wellcome Collection and the Foundling Museum have also decided to close amid the virus surge, according to the Art Newspaper, although the U.K. government has not handed down any official instruction for museums to close.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on the evening of Saturday December 18 that all non-essential shops, bars and restaurants would close until January 14. The ruling, put in place to protect the Dutch medical system, will mean museums will also close until mid-January, the logic being that this will give people time to get their vaccine booster.
“I stand here tonight in a sombre mood. And a lot of people watching will feel that way. To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow,” he told the Dutch people in an empathetic address, according to the BBC. “I can now hear the whole of the Netherlands sighing. This is exactly one week before Christmas, another Christmas that is completely different from what we would like.”
The latest lockdown measures mean that the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has been open for just 24 weeks in 2021. “Of course we had hoped that the situation would be different, as what we really want to do is to inspire our visitors with the life and work of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries on a daily basis,” director Emilie Gordenker told Artnet News. She added that the closure caused 12,000 ticket cancellations (tickets for the museum are priced at €19/$21).
The Dutch decision came after Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen declared the closure of all public venues including amusement parks, theatre, cinemas, museums and art galleries until mid-January on Friday, December 17.
“Our goal is still to keep as large sections of society open as possible. We need to curb activity. We all need to limit our social contacts,” she said.
The announcements come as concern over the rapid spread and unknown long-term impact of the Omicron variant across the world. Austria has just emerged from its own circuit-breaker lockdown, which shuttered museums at a potential cost of “millions,” according to museum director Sabine Haag. In London Sadiq Khan announced a “major incident” while U.K. health secretary Sajid Javid refused to rule out introducing restrictions in the week leading up to Christmas. In the U.S., the president’s chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, has advised social distancing and the use of face masks in crowded places.
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