Louvre restricts entry, French concerts cancelled over virus fears


Paris (AFP)

The Louvre said Monday it was restricting entry to the world's most visited museum, as concerts were cancelled across France because of the new coronavirus.

Only people who have already reserved a ticket online, or those who normally benefit from free entry, will be allowed into the Paris landmark, the Louvre said.

The restriction comes after the vast museum was forced to close for two days last week when staff refused to work over health fears.

Pop concerts across the country were postponed or hung in the balance after the government banned public gatherings of more than 1,000 people late Sunday.

The final show in Madonna's "Madame X" tour at the Grand Rex in Paris on Wednesday was among those in doubt.

The Paris Philharmonie -- the biggest classic music venue in the French capital -- said it was cancelling all events in its main 2,400-seat auditorium until further notice, starting with Monday's concert by Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis.

Paris Saint-Germain was ordered to play Wednesday's home Champions League tie against German club Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors.

Theatre and opera managers in the city were meeting Monday to decide how to react to the ban, with several venues including the Paris Opera well above the 1,000-place limit.

- 'Fatal blow' -

In Lyon, France's third largest city, concerts by Simple Minds and a string of French rappers have already been postponed.

"Up to now we have been putting back concerts to June," said Thierry Teodori, head of the 17,000-capacity Halle Tony Garnier.

"But now we are having to postpone concerts for a year because there are no slots left for the autumn or next winter," he told AFP.

Series Mania, one of Europe's biggest series festivals which is due to take place in the northern city of Lille later this month, said it was trying to ride out the crisis.

Its director Laurence Herszberg appealed for patience, tweeting, "We are looking at solutions that respect the government order."

The Cannes film festival -- the world's biggest -- has been bullish about weathering the storm.

It plans to announce its line-up for the enormous event in May as usual next month.

But the Louvre, which also attracts visitors from all over the world, was more cautious.

"Faced with Covid-19, the museum has decided to regulate entry," the museum said in a statement, adding visitors can no longer turn up and buy a ticket.

More than 9.6 million people visited the Louvre last year, most of them from abroad, with American and Chinese tourists the biggest groups.

Having taken a huge financial hit during a record-breaking French transport strike which left Paris theatres empty at the turn of the year, the virus could be catastrophic for the entertainment industry.

"I don't know if (cancelling large shows) will kill the virus... but for the performing arts, the virus could be fatal blow," said Vincent Frerebeau, the founder of the French record label Tot ou tard.