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COVID-19

Eiffel Tower and other Paris tourist sites close doors over coronavirus

France's top tourists sites, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, closed on Friday as the government banned all gatherings of more than 100 people to stem the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Eiffel Tower and other Paris tourist sites close doors over coronavirus
The Eiffel Tower has been closed to visitors as France tries to get the coronavirus epidemic under control. Photo: AFP

The country – the most visited in the world – is one of Europe's hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 3,661 infections and 79 deaths confirmed on Friday evening.

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 will remain closed until further notice, while the Palace of Versailles said it was also shutting its doors.

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

 

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

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.

You can find all our coverage of the coronavirus situation in France here.

Louvre closed its doors over coronavirus restrictions on Friday. Photo: AFP

 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 website it was closed.

A string of other museums said they too were shutting 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.

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

Fears of long shutdown

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 $18 million) euros.

Impressario Jean-Marc Dumontet, who owns several Paris theatres, told AFP 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,” adding that all shows opening between now and August are threatened. “It's extremely sad and really shocking.”

The Paris Opera has pulled 34 operas, ballets and concerts at its two opera houses in the French capital, with only shows after April 24 still due to go ahead for now. All rehearsals have also been cancelled.

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

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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