It’s deja vous all over again for museums across Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, as they were forced to return to the COVID-19 closures of last year due to another wave of infections driven by a rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
On Friday, December 17, Denmark announced that it would close museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, and other public venues in response to an unprecedented surge of COVID infections in the country. The Danish government reported an all-time high of over 11,000 cases within 24 hours before Friday, including more than 2,500 Omicron cases. The new restrictions came into effect on Sunday after being passed by parliament.
“Theatres, cinemas, (and) concert halls are going to have to close,” Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a press conference on Friday. “We need to limit our activity. We all need to limit our social contact.”
Also on Friday, the Netherlands announced a strict COVID-19 lockdown from Sunday, December 19, through January 14. The lockdown affects major Amsterdam institutions like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum among many other museums and galleries across the country.
“The Netherlands is again shutting down,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a televised press conference. “That is unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the Omicron variant.”
Meanwhile, London’s Museum of Natural History announced on Twitter it will be closed from December 21–27 “due to an unforeseen staff shortage” caused by COVID-19. In a statement to Hyperallergic, the museum explained that it had to make the “difficult decision” to close its South Kensington location after members of its front-of-house staff were “impacted by Covid-19 infections and isolation requirements.”
“We will remain closed to the public until reopening on Tuesday 28 December, when we hope that staffing levels will have recovered,” a spokesperson for the museum told Hyperallergic .”This is not a decision we have taken lightly but the safety of staff and visitors must always come first.”
Other London institutions like the Wellcome Collection, the Foundling Museum, and the National Army Museum have decided to close over the holiday period, according to a report by the Art Newspaper.
In the United States, the surge of COVID-19 cases has yet to affect museums though in New York it has throttled Broadway shows and other major entertainment events. Most recently, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan announced that it would move its Christmas services online due to the spread of Omicron. (The Cathedral will remain open daily for private prayer and meditation.)
“The unfortunate timing of this emergency has forced many of us to reconsider carrying out those holiday traditions we value most, including spending time amongst our families and loved ones,” the church said in a statement. “The time has come once again to put the needs and concerns of our wider community first, and adjust the details of our upcoming festivities and Services to best protect our congregants, clients, and visitors.”