At the Louvre, the Mona Lisa is flanked by guards who usually help move the crowd through the crowded Salle des Etats. But after staff forced the Paris museum to close on Sunday due to safety concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus, their routine changed. Now the guards stand still and visitors must determine their own flow through the gallery.
This is one of the emergency measures the Louvre has put in place after it reopens to the public on Wednesday March 4. The French government has banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people after nearly 300 confirmed cases and four deaths from the infections. The Louvre welcomes around 30,000 visitors a day, six days a week.
Although the French government said the ban did not apply to the Louvre because visitors tend to be scattered across its many rooms, its staff remained concerned and exercised their vote to abruptly close the museum on Sunday.
Louvre staff representatives met with the museum’s senior management and doctors on Tuesday, its usual closing day, to share concerns about their safety as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads.
They discussed updated security precautions, including static guards in front of the Mona Lisa, the museum’s main draw. After a vote on Wednesday morning, the museum reopened yesterday afternoon. Guards are not wearing masks or gloves as requested, but they have been provided with hand sanitizer.
But will people be able to control themselves in front of the most enigmatic smile in the world? Staff doubt that the security measures are sufficient, nor do they know if they will work in terms of visitor flows. “People are going to wait in front of the board,” a guard told the New York Times. “It will be a mess.”
Ticket sellers will work as usual but behind glass kiosks; otherwise, the museum has agreed that the majority of ticket sales will be through self-service machines.
On the museum’s website, it “invites” visitors from areas affected by the coronavirus to postpone their visit to the museum.
Europe’s museums and historic sites, which are large gathering places popular with international tourists, are bracing for the spread of the coronavirus. Museums in northern Italy, which bore the brunt of early outbreaks, reopened this week after a temporary closure, but visitors are urged to keep three feet apart.
Various UK museums contacted by Artnet News said they were monitoring the situation. A spokesperson for Historic Royal Palaces, which manages the Tower of London and other major heritage attractions, said it has installed additional handwashing stations in public and staff areas.
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