France's iconic Louvre Museum was shut down indefinitely for visitors amidst fears of coronavirus as the country reported 100 confirmed cases of the fatal virus and two deaths. French authorities have also placed a ban on public gathering of 5,000 or more in confined spaces in order to contain the spread of the virus.
The decision to shut down the museum, the most visited museum in world, was taken after its 2,300 staff members voted "almost unanimously" to shut the place amidst the coronavirus scare. The museum officials apologised the tourists who were greeted with the closed doors of the museum, and offered to refund the ticket amount.
Museum staff reluctant as visitors comprise mostly foreign tourists
A statement on museum's website read: "The Louvre Museum cannot open today, Sunday March 1st.We invite you to write to Assistancefirstname.lastname@example.org for a refund for any entrance tickets for today. We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you informed as the situation develops."
Sophie Grange, the assistant director of communications at the Museum, said: "Despite discussions between museum staff, management and its preventive [medicine] doctor, the Louvre was unable to open today. Another meeting with staff on health and safety protocols will be held Monday."
The museum, which received an annual footfall of 9.6 million visitors, mostly foreign tourists, in 2019 is home to legendary Mona Lisa among other priceless pieces of artwork. Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative said that the decision was taken after the risk assessment due to the virus. "We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere. The risk is very, very, very great. While there are no known infections among the museum's 2,300 workers, it's only a question of time," he said.
Speaking to AFP, Union official Christian Galani said: "The meeting was arranged to discuss the concerns of staff. Management representatives were unable to convince workers to go to work. The Louvre is a confined space which welcomes more than 5,000 people a day. There is real concern on the part of staff."
France and Italy urge people to refrain from kissing
Apart from cancelling and placing a ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 in confined spaces, the French government urged the people to refrain from la bise, a French way of greeting each other with kisses. "The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise," Health Minister Olivier Véran said during a press conference.
Coronavirus scare has also spread to the religious places with Church authorities urging people to refrain from public contact. The archbishop of Paris has instructed the parish priests to put the Communion bread in participants' hands, instead of their mouths.
The Italian authorities have urged its citizens to refrain from showing physical form of love while greeting each other. Angelo Borrelli, Italy's special commissioner for coronavirus, said: "We have a collective social life that is very florid, very expansive. We have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other. Maybe it is better in this period not to shake hands, and do not have too much contact, and try to be a bit less expansive, which is different from how I am."
So far more than 80,000 people have tested positive for the fatal virus which has so far claimed more than 3,000 deaths across the globe.