France’s famed Louvre Museum shut down after a meeting in which workers expressed fears of contracting the coronavirus.
The museum, which is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, sees about 9.6 million visitors per year, the vast majority of whom are from other countries. The Louvre said in a Sunday statement that the closure occurred after the staff meeting.
Andre Sacristin, an employee and union representative at the Louvre, told the Associated Press that he and other employees are terrified of getting sick. He added that while there have not been any infections among staff, “It’s only a question of time.”
“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” Sacristin said. “The risk is very, very, very great.”
Hundreds of people gathered outside the iconic museum on Sunday, many of whom had already purchased tickets, in hopes of the Louvre opening only to learn that it would be closed for the rest of the day.
“We waited for about 3 hours before giving up,” said Charles Lim, a visitor from Singapore. “It was incredibly disappointing.”
been waiting in the cold for 3 hours, still no news from staff who are apparently having a “meeting” and apparently we don’t get refunds for tickets#louvre pic.twitter.com/rDkcsZoova— Charlie Lim (@wherewascharlie) March 1, 2020
The French government recently announced a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people in an effort to stymie the spread of the flu-like illness. The country has seen 100 confirmed cases of the virus, known as the COVID-19 virus, and two deaths.
Italy has become the hotbed of the virus in Europe with more than 1,100 cases and 29 deaths. Pope Francis was seen coughing in the country on Sunday during his first public appearance since getting sick, but the Vatican has pushed back on rumors that he has the coronavirus.
The White House increased travel warnings Saturday, telling people to avoid travel to parts of Italy and South Korea. Meanwhile, President Trump has encouraged the public not to panic.
There have been more than 87,400 cases of the mystery virus worldwide and almost 3,000 deaths, most of which are in China.