As the 2021 edition of Tomorrowland hangs in the balance, the Belgian government has expressed confidence that large music festivals will return this summer. However, the path to Tomorrowland 2021 could prove to be a complex one.
Tomorrowland organizers on May 11th shared a statement in reaction to comments made by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who asserted in a recent tweet that large festivals should be possible in the second half of the summer. De Croo's remarks arrived after the Flemish government presented its "Freedom Plan," a proposal to relax COVID-19 restrictions month by month and reopen various economic sectors.
"We are delighted and grateful to hear that the Belgian Government has given a realistic perspective for large festivals in Belgium towards the end of the summer," Tomorrowland's statement reads. "This perspective is not only hopeful for Tomorrowland as an organization, but also for the more than 1500 suppliers and their staff."
Organizers have reason to be hopeful for Tomorrowland's physical 2021 edition, but a number of pandemic-related concerns could cast doubt for prospective attendees. According to Minister of Health and Social Affairs Frank Vandenbroucke, who spoke with VTN News, the return of large festivals is dependent on four conditions.
As first reported by The Brussels Times, Vandenbroucke affirmed the most vital condition is the normalization of hospitals. "Firstly, you can only start organizing big festivals when hospitals are a safe haven, and normal health care is guaranteed," he said. "The number of people with Covid in intensive care must be drastically reduced, and the number of daily hospitalizations must also decrease."
The second proviso, according to Vandenbroucke, is the necessity for attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test. "You have to show that you have been vaccinated or that you have had a recent negative test," he continued. "A 'corona passport' is essential."
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The third stipulation, Vandenbroucke says, is onsite testing, which will be pivotal to the capacity of festivals like Tomorrowland. "Thirdly, the people attending have to be tested at the event every day," he explained. "The capacity will depend on that."
The fourth condition—and perhaps the most alarming—is the government's course of action to "be careful with people who come from distant countries with other variants of the virus." According to Vandenbroucke, "only people from the European Union" will be allowed to attend festivals as well as visitors from "countries that have the coronavirus under control."
The Associated Press reports the Belgian government said Tuesday that it will further relax its COVID-19 restrictions as of next month, with hopes to fully reopen on September 1st. The country, which AP referred to as "one of the worst hit nations in the world per capita," has seen its case numbers drop following an increase in its vaccination rate to 38% of the population.
Notwithstanding the rosy outlook, some health officials remain skeptical, like infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe.
"Despite the high vaccination rate we will hopefully have achieved by then, there will still be too many uncertain factors," said Vlieghe, who added that she believes her advice "has been pushed aside."
The two weekends of Tomorrowland's 2021 edition were recently rescheduled to August 27-29 and September 3-5. At the time of the announcement, organizers cautioned fans that the festival could be moved to 2022 if safety concerns persist. Fans can expect a more concrete update later in the month of May.