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Paris: Louvre museum reopens with strict health rules for visitors

Visitors were again allowed to enter France's famous Louvre museum on Monday, after 16 weeks of coronavirus health closure. But anyone wanting to admire the Mona Lisa will have to wear a mask.

Paris: Louvre museum reopens with strict health rules for visitors
The Louvre is the worlds most visited museum. Photo: QFP

The worlds most-visited museum suffered big economic losses during the near-four-month lockdown, losing more than €40 million in ticket sales. 

Now, as it was set to reopen without the regular flow of foreign tourists, Director Jean-Luc Martinez said he expected the a few lean years ahead as the world adapts to the virus.

“We are losing 80 percent of our public,” Martinez told the AFP.

Some 70 percent of the Louvre's 9.6 million visitors last year were from overseas, and with tourism at a near standstill, Martinez told AFP that visitor numbers would drop sharply.

“We are going to be at best 20 to 30 percent down on last summer, between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day,” he said.

The museum has also added a series of new health rules to ensure the safety of visitors and staff that will decrease the total number of visitors.

Here's a look at the rules:

 

Book online – entry will only be possible with pre-booked tickets and even people entitled to free admission must book a time slot online in advance here.

Masks – wearing a mask will be compulsory for all visitors over the age of 11.

Opening – From July to September, the museum will open daily from 9am to 6pm, apart from Tuesdays when it will be closed.
 
No cloakroom – cloakrooms will remain closed and large bags and motorbike helmets are not allowed in the building.
 
Exhibition access – some changes have been made to the layout of the museum to ensure a steady flow of visitors. 
To avoid bottlenecks, arrows will guide visitors through the labyrinth of galleries, with doubling back banned, the museum said.
 
The rooms French sculptures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance; decorative arts during the Renaissance, and the 18th and 19th century;  arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas; lower level of the Islamic Art department; and level 2 of the French and Northern European painting collections remain closed initially.
 
The Mona Lisa room will be open, with a separate entrance and exit and guides in place to prevent overcrowding. Visitors will no longer be able to crowd in front of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece for a selfie, but will need to follow the spaced-out lines marked on the floor.
 
Groups – tour guides can bring groups of up to 25 people.
 
Gardens – the Tuileries gardens are now fully reopened, but keep in mind that social gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are still banned.
 

Shake off elitist image

The vast former palace of France's kings was hpoping to attract more French visitors to fill the gap from its lacking tourists, as it embarks on a campaign to shake off its elitist image before the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Martinez, who comes from a working-class background, said he wanted to build on the outreach success of the Louvre's outpost museum in Lens, a poor former mining town in northern France.

He said sometimes the Louvre can “intimidate” certain demographics and the museum needs to reassure people that its collections are also for them with improved presentation, labelling and curation.

Although most of the museum's most popular draws, like the “Mona Lisa” and its vast antiquities collection will be accessible, other galleries where social distancing is more difficult will remain closed.

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TOURISM

Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.

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