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Coronavirus: Louvre museum in Paris reopens after staff walkout

The Louvre museum in Paris reopened on Wednesday after staff being closed for three days when staff went on strike citing fears over the coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Louvre museum in Paris reopens after staff walkout
Visitors queue outside the Pyramid, the main entrance to the Louvre museum in Paris on March 4, 2020. AFP

The Louvre in Paris, the world's most visited museum, reopened after staff ended their coronavirus walkout.

Queues of visitors immediately formed outside the famous museum's entrance on Wednesday.

The museum had closed on Sunday when around 300 staff voted “almost unanimously” not to open, Christian Galani of the CGT labour union told AFP, leaving many would-be visitors disappointed.

It remained closed throughout Monday and Tuesday.

The Louvre, near the banks of the Seine river in central Paris, received 9.6 million visitors last year, most of them foreigners including Americans, Chinese and Europeans.

Louvre management later said it would refund ticket-holders.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and will keep you informed as the situation develops,” the museum said on its website.

On Saturday, the government announced several measures to try and curb the outbreak in France, including cancelling all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces.

“The Louvre is a confined space which welcomes more than 5,000 people a day,” said Galani, adding: “there is real concern on the part of staff.”

Workers met in the morning to discuss these fears, and Galani said management representatives were unable to convince staff to go to work.

They demanded stepped up protective measures, including the provision of hand sanitising gel and window barriers to separate cashiers from members of the public.

In January, workers also forced a one-day closure in a strike over the government's pension reform plans. 

Earlier this week, the museum ended a special Leonardo da Vinci exhibition with an all-time visitors' record of nearly 1.1 million people.

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COVID-19

New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees. 

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