Dutch museums and concert halls open as hair salons to protest Covid-19 rules

Museums and concert halls temporarily turned themselves into beauty salons and gyms in the Netherlands on Wednesday in protest against the Dutch government's coronavirus restrictions. A barber and two nail artists tended to visitors among priceless works of art at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and two barbers set up their chairs on the stage of the Concertgebouw in the capital. The cultural sector says it is unfair that they must remain closed while Covid curbs were lifted last week on shops and so-called "contact professions" like barbers, nail salons and even sex work. Dutch authorities handed out enforcement notices to a number of the  70-odd venues that took part in the day-long protest. "We wanted to make the point that a museum is a safe visit and we should be open," Van Gogh Museum director Emilie Gordenker told AFP. Also read: Dutch flock to shops before expected lockdown "The mayor called me last night and she said she's not permitting this. We expect to get a warning at some point after which we will have to close, but we wanted to make this point very badly so here we are." One of the barber's clients said he had come because he was "pro-culture". "Let's reopen business, let's reopen culture as soon as possible," said Max Smit, 32. "Of course with a reasonable pandemic risk taking, but I think that large institutions like big open spaces like the Van Gogh Museum should be able to reopen." 'Two years of patience'  Nearby, the "Hair salon at the Concertgebouw" event saw two masked barbers clip hair on stage, while the orchestra played Symphony No. 2 by Charles Iver. "After two years of patience and an ever-constructive attitude, it is high time for a fair perspective for the cultural sector," Concertgebouw director Simon Renink said. Also read: Two in hospital after police fire on Dutch Covid-19 protesters Fitness classes took place at the Mauritshuis gallery in The Hague, home to Vermeer's famed "Girl with the Peal Earring, while the Speelklok museum in Utrecht set itself up as a gym.  Enforcement officers visited the Utrecht museum and it then carried on the protest outside, public broadcaster NOS said. The protest follows similar civil disobedience measures by bars and restaurants in the Netherlands against some of Europe's toughest Covid measures. Cafes opened in several cities at the weekend despite a government announcement on Friday that they must stay closed until at least February 25. The government said it had to stay cautious since while hospitalisations were falling, new infections driven by the Omicron variant were hitting record levels. Anger at the restrictions spilled over into violence in January last year and again in November when riots erupted in cities including Rotterdam and The Hague.

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