Paris' Louvre Closes as France Bans Large Gatherings Amid Coronavirus Outbreak (Video)
Officials at Paris’s Louvre shut down the world’s most popular museum on Sunday and delayed its opening into Monday to protect staff from the spread of coronavirus.
"The Louvre cannot open this Sunday, March 1," a statement from the museum said. "Museum staff met to discuss the health situation and the Covid-19 prevention measures taken by the museum following instructions from the competent authorities."
The museum is still closed as of 9 a.m. EST according to a message on the Louvre's website.
While no known museum employee has yet contracted the virus, "it's only a question of time," Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative, told The Associated Press. The museum welcomes 9.6 million visitors per year, without tens of thousands of tourists from all around the world pouring into the museum each day.
The Louvre announced its closure on Sunday, while many visitors were already waiting in line to enter. A meeting is scheduled for Monday between museum staff and union representatives.
Tickets bought in advance for Sunday or Monday will be refunded, according to the museum's Twitter account. Ticket holders are advised to email Assistancefirstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, the French government released temporary measures banning public gatherings of more than 5,000 people as France has reported at least 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with two deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In a press conference, Health Minister Olivier Veran also warned citizens against its traditional “les bises” greeting — kissing hello or goodbye on both cheeks — during the virus outbreak.
"The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise,” Veran said, according to Business Insider. “The virus is circulating in our territory and we must now slow down its spread.”
The highest number of cases in France is around the Paris region, with the majority of those infected having recently visited Italy or been in close contact with those who have. The government recommends a self-quarantine of 14 days for travelers who have recently returned from China, South Korea, Iran or the affected regions of Italy.
As the virus has hit Europe, museums in Italy closed last week due to the virus’s spread. Cultural institutions in northern Italy closed for the week, including the Palazzo Ducale in Venice and Milan’s Duomo, according to The Local Italy. The museums reopened on Monday.