Eiffel Tower to reopen after record nine-month closure due to Covid-19

Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, about half of the normal level. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The Eiffel Tower is to reopen to visitors on Friday (July 16) for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

The lifts of the "Iron Lady" are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300m summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.

And, from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements.

"Obviously it's an additional operational complication, but it's manageable," the head of the operating company, Mr Jean-François Martins, told Agence France-Presse.

After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the "lady is ready".

Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

Mr Martins said there was an "almost total absence" of British ticket holders, while only 15 per cent were Americans and very few were from Asia.

Half of visitors are expected to be French, while those from Italy and Spain make up a higher proportion than usual.

The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of the Paris city authorities.

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh €60 million (S$96 million) cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 per cent to €25 million last year.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to labourers.

Tests are still under way and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.