Palace of versailles

The Louvre and the Palace of Versailles in France closed by the coronavirus – News

Rana Moussaoui and Fiachra Gibbons (Agence France-Presse)

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Sat 14 March 2020

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Major tourist sites in Paris, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, closed on Friday due to the coronavirus, as France said it was banning all gatherings of more than 100 people.

The country – the most visited in the world – is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, with more than 2,800 infections and 61 deaths.

Its tourism and culture sectors have been particularly hard hit, as the government stepped up containment measures during the outbreak, closing schools and banning large gatherings.

The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower will remain closed until further notice, while the Palace of Versailles has announced that it is also closing.

The Eiffel Tower announced that its doors would close from Friday 9:00 p.m. (20:00 GMT) “due to the COVID-19 epidemic”.

Management said it hoped “to be able to reopen very soon when conditions allow,” in a statement posted Friday on its website.

The Louvre – the most visited museum in the world – had already limited entry to 1,000 people at a time as the number of coronavirus cases in France rose.

In a sign that the closure could be relatively long, the museum announced that it was also postponing two upcoming exhibitions, including an exhibition on Italian sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo which was not due to open until May.

The Palace of Versailles – France’s other big tourist attraction with nearly 10 million tourists a year – quickly followed suit.

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which holds the largest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world, also announced on its website that it was closed.

A series of other museums said they were also closing after France’s culture ministry ordered public institutions to close or severely restrict entry on Friday.

Public theatres, libraries and concert halls have also been told to close.

French Culture Franck Riester is quarantined at his home after testing positive for the virus earlier this week.

Fears of a prolonged shutdown

The prospect of a long shutdown has left Parisian theaters and concert halls facing the financial abyss.

The entertainment industry across France – but particularly in the capital – had already been reeling from a six-week transport strike over pension reform earlier this year, which left the Paris Opera alone facing losses of 16.4 million euros ($18 million).

Impressario Jean-Marc Dumontet, owner of several Parisian theaters, told AFP the closure was a devastating double whammy.

“Some of my staff are in tears,” he said. “It’s a knockout blow. Projects have to be scrapped,” adding that all shows that will open by August are under threat.

“It’s extremely sad and really shocking.”

The Paris Opera has withdrawn 34 operas, ballets and concerts from its two opera houses in the French capital, with only performances after April 24 still to take place for now.

All rehearsals have also been cancelled.

“We still have enough money to meet our obligations,” said the opera’s CEO Martin Ajdari, but he warned that “everything after this difficult period will be complicated”.