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Mona Lisa In Lockdown As Coronavirus Closes Louvre

The spreading coronavirus epidemic has shut down France's Louvre Museum, with workers who guard its famous trove of artworks fearful of being contaminated by the museum's flow of tourists from around the world.

"It's the right to withdraw --  that means exercising a right that allows a person to protect themselves when they feel threatened by a big and imminent danger," Union official, Christian Galani, told the  Associated Press

"So we are not at all in the same scenario [as a strike]. It's an individual right, but it has been exercised collectively, and that means almost unanimously."

Almost three-quarters of the Louvre's 9.6 million visitors last year came from abroad. The world's most popular museum welcomes tens of thousands of fans daily in Paris.

A short statement from the Louvre said a staff meeting about virus prevention efforts stopped the museum from opening as scheduled Sunday morning. Would-be visitors were still waiting on Sunday afternoon to get inside but the Louvre later announced it would not open at all on Sunday.

The decision left a number of tourists disappointed including Maissa who is from the Philippines.

I want to go to see the Mona Lisa, that painting, but unfortunately it's closed so I am a bit disappointed and I don't know why [it's closed].

The shutdown followed a French government decision on Saturday to ban indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

The new measure exacerbated the fears of Louvre workers that they might be in danger of contamination, while Louvre staffers were also concerned about museum workers from northern Italy who had come to the museum to collect works by Leonardo da Vinci that were loaned for a major exhibition.

Tourists hoping to see the Mona Lisa were left disappointed. (Image: Getty)
Tourists turned away from the Louvre amidst Coronavirus fears. Image: Associated Press

"It is easy to admit that the Louvre Museum is a confined space and that it receives more than 5,000 people a day, because we have an average of 40,000 people visiting the building [every day], and in a high frequency period get up to 80,000 people," Galani said.

"In these conditions, you can understand the concern of some people and why some demonstrations are cancelled."

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Another meeting about virus prevention at the Louvre is scheduled for Monday between union representatives and the museum management.