(Right Country) – As fears of the coronavirus infection continue to spread, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations just shuttered its doors.
But you won’t believe how this actually came about.
Workers of the world-famous Louvre refused to go to work on Sunday out of fear of the virus, forcing the closure of the establishment.
On Saturday, the French government also banned indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people to try to limit the spread of the virus, according to the BBC.
The following day, the union representing the Louvre workers held a meeting. The museum, which houses some of the most well-known pieces of art in the world including the Mona Lisa, welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world every year.
“The meeting was arranged to discuss the concerns of staff,” union official Christian Galani said, noting the that the management of the museum could not persuade employees to go to work.
“The Louvre is a confined space which welcomes more than 5,000 people a day,” Galani said. “There is real concern on the part of staff.”
“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and representative of the union said, the Associated Press reports.
“The risk is very, very, very great,” he said.
Sacristin added that while no infections have been reported among the staff of the Louvre, considering how many people from all over the world enter its doors, “it’s only a question of time.”
He’s not wrong.
Workers requested masks to protect themselves from infection but were provided with alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead, he said.
“That didn’t please us at all,” he said. It must be noted that while the workers’ concern is of course entirely valid, officials have been clear that masks are only useful when worn by those who are already infected.
Sacristin said that the French government’s ban on large gatherings prompted new fears among the employees, as did the presence of workers from Northern Italy who were at the museum to coordinate the return of works from Leonardo da Vinci that had been on loan to the Louvre.
Italy has over 1,600 coronavirus cases and 34 reported deaths. France had had 130 cases and reported two deaths, including the first coronavirus death in Europe.
Wow, the Louvre staff union voted to close over Coronavirus concern-and it closed. I'm trying to think of any major American institution that would follow a vote of the staff as opposed to waiting on management. https://t.co/cvSaq8l8Xh
— ((LesterPolchlopek)) (@LPolchlopek) March 1, 2020
They're part of a very large union (CGT) & from what I can tell, their vote to close is either law or guaranteed in their contract. It might also be part of the longer struggle at the Louvre to get management to do more to control crowds (or hire more people)
— John Russell (@johnruss28) March 1, 2020
On Monday, the museum announced they would remain closed.
⚠️ An informational meeting on the public health situation linked to Covid-19 prevention measures following the ministerial instructions transmitted by the competent authorities has delayed the opening of the #Louvre on Monday, March 2.
The museum cannot open at the moment. pic.twitter.com/Kcs92vFKhQ
— Musée du Louvre (@MuseeLouvre) March 2, 2020
Sacristin says that visitors should be screened for the virus and that if anyone who visits appears to be infected, “then the museum should be closed.”
Galani said that the Louvre should have been covered by the large gathering ban.
“You will easily admit that the Louvre Museum is a confined space and that it receives more than 5,000 people a day,” he said.
Culture Minister Frank Reister, however, clarified that not all the visitors are in one room at the same time.
Featured image credit: flickr.com/people/[email protected]