Paris’ top tourists sites, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, closed on Friday because of the COVID-19 pandemic as France said it was banning all gatherings of more than 100 people.
The country — the most visited in the world — is one of Europe’s hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 3,600 infections and 79 deaths.
Its tourism and cultural sectors have been particularly hard hit, as the government has ramped up containment measures over the outbreak, closing schools and banning large gatherings.
Both the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower are to remain closed until further notice, while the Palace of Versailles said it was also shutting its doors.
The Eiffel Tower said its doors would shut from 9pm on Friday “due to the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Management said in a statement that it hoped “to be able to reopen very soon when conditions allow it.”
The Louvre — the most visited museum in the world — had already restricted entry to 1,000 people at a time as the number of cases in France has climbed.
In a sign that the shutdown could be 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.
The Palace of Versailles — France’s other big tourist attraction with nearly 10 million tourists a year — swiftly followed suit. The Musee d’Orsay in Paris, which holds the world’s biggest collection of impressionist paintings, also said on its Web site that it was closed.
A string of other museums said they too were shutting their doors after the French Ministry of Culture ordered state institutions to shut or to severely restrict entry.
Public theaters, libraries and concert halls were also told to close.
French Minister of Culture Franck Riester is quarantined at his home after testing positive for the virus earlier this week.
The prospect of a long shutdown has left theaters 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 euros (US$18.3 million).
Impressario Jean-Marc Dumontet, who owns several Paris theaters, told reporters that the shutdown was a devastating double blow.
“Some of my staff are in tears,” he said. “It’s a knock-out blow. Projects are having to be abandoned.”
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