Coronavirus: Louvre museum closes for second day as France reports third death

Visitors queue outside the pyramid of the Louvre Museum as they wait for the decision of the staff meeting on the coronavirus outbreak in Paris, on March 2, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (REUTERS) - The Louvre museum in Paris shut its doors to art lovers and tourists for a second day on Monday (March 2) after staff walked out over health risks associated with the coronavirus and a third death was reported in the country.

One patient has died of coronavirus in northern France, bringing the death toll in the country to three, the mayor of the city of Compiegne told BFM TV on Monday.

Queues quickly formed in the morning rain outside the world's most visited museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo sculpture.

French law gives workers the 'droit de retraite' - or 'right to withdraw' - under legislation introduced by Socialist President Francois Mitterrand in the early 1980s, if they feel there is a clear and imminent danger to their safety.

At the Louvre, a large majority of some 300 workers voted in favour of the walkout unless the museum's management provided disinfectant gels and reinstated glass barriers between reception staff and visitors, French newspaper Le Parisien reported.

A notice at the main entrance told visitors: "We will inform you about a potential opening time as soon as possible."

The French government has banned public gatherings of more than 5,000 people as it battles to contain an outbreak in France that has killed at least three people and infected more than 130.

The measure does not cover museums, tourist venues and theme parks and the Louvre's management said all necessary precautions were in place to ensure the museum could operate normally.

"It is not necessary to close the museum under the current circumstances," the Louvre's general administrator Maxence Langlois-Berthelot told reporters. "We are putting into action all the measures which the authorities require of us."

Disneyland Paris in Chessy, 32km east of central Paris, was open as normal on Monday, a representative said. The Eiffel Tower was also operating normally.

French labour law specialists warned that workers in other roles that involve close contact with the public - including public transport, hospitals, schools and supermarkets - might also invoke their right to walk out unless employers boosted protections against virus transmission.

"We are just at the start," said Stephane Beal, head of labour law at legal firm Fidal. Two unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said they were following the outbreak carefully.

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