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Coronavirus: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Versailles closed as Paris starts to shut down

The Louvre museum had 9.6 million visitors last year
The Louvre museum had 9.6 million visitors last year AFP

The Louvre in Paris, the world's most visited museum, said Friday that it was closing "until further notice" because of the coronavirus. The closure of the museum, which had 9.6 million visitors last year, came after the French government banned all gatherings of over 100 people to limit the spread of the virus.

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

The Hall of Mirrors, Chateau de Versailles.
The Hall of Mirrors, Chateau de Versailles. AFP/Martin Bureau

The Louvre had restricted entry to 1,000 people at a time on Monday as the number of cases in France began to rise. “All holders of tickets purchased online will receive a refund,” announces its official website.

In a sign that the shutdown could be relatively long-lasting, the museum said it was also postponing two upcoming exhibitions, including a show on Italian sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo which was not due to open until May.

And France's most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, closed down as of 9:00 pm Friday night 'for an indefinite period of time,' according to its website.

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which holds the world's biggest collection of Impressionist paintings, is expected to follow the Louvre's lead later Friday.

Musée d'Orsay in Paris
Musée d'Orsay in Paris AFP

The Institute of the Arab World, that had a month full of activities planned for the month of March, also announced to close its doors as of March 14, “until futher notice.”

A string of other museums said they too were closing their doors after the French culture ministry ordered state institutions to shut or to severely restrict entry Friday.

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

Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture
Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture ©RFI

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

 End not in sight

The prospect of a long shutdown has left theatres and concert halls in Paris staring into 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 reforms earlier this year , which has left the Paris Opera alone facing loses of €16.4 million.

All out: Striking dancers from the Paris Opera perform on the steps of the Opera Garnier in the French capital on Christmas Eve
All out: Striking dancers from the Paris Opera perform on the steps of the Opera Garnier in the French capital on Christmas Eve AFP/File

All rehearsals have also been cancelled.

The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay had restricted entry to both museums to 1,000 people earlier this week, with the Louvre forcing visitors to book online.

But with the death toll in France reaching 61 on Friday, and the government closing schools and creches, the museums were forced to take a more radical approach.

The Louvre closed for two days last week when staff refused to work over health fears.

 

 

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