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Paris Louvre museum to reopen on Monday after crippling losses

The Louvre in Paris, the world's most visited museum and home to the Mona Lisa, reopens on Monday but with coronavirus restrictions in place and parts of the complex closed to visitors.

Paris Louvre museum to reopen on Monday after crippling losses
A jogger runs past the Louvre. Image: Bertrand GUAY / AFP

The Louvre has been closed since March 13 and this has already led “to losses of over 40 million euros,” its director Jean-Luc Martinez said. Among more than 10 million visitors in 2018, almost three-quarters were tourists.

“We have lost 80 percent of our public. Seventy-five percent of our visitors were foreigners,” Martinez said.

“We will at best see 20 to 30 percent of our numbers recorded last summer — between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors daily at the most,” he said.

Visitors will have to wear masks, there will be no snacks or cloakrooms available and the public will have to follow a guided path through the museum.

Positions have been marked in front of the Mona Lisa — where tourists routinely pose for selfies — to ensure social distancing.

France contributes 100 million euros ($112 million) to the Louvre's 250-million-euro annual budget and the museum must make up the rest, according to experts.

Seventy percent of the museum's public areas — or 45,000 square metres (about 485,000 square feet) — will be open to the public.

After the success of its blockbuster Leonardo exhibition which closed earlier this year, the Louvre said its two exhibitions scheduled for spring and then postponed would now take place in the autumn.

These are on Italian sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo and the renaissance German master Albrecht Altdorfer.

The Louvre has upped its virtual presence during the lockdown and said it was now the most followed museum in the world on Instagram with over four million followers.

Martinez is planning a revamp of the museum ahead of 2024, when Paris hosts the Olympic Games. 

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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