By Sarah White
PARIS (Reuters) – Paris’ famed Moulin Rouge cabaret, the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower were among top tourism landmarks that closed their doors on Friday after the government banned gatherings of more than 100 people to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The cabaret, known for its high-kicking dancers, and many other venues including cinemas were caught on the hop by the televised lunchtime announcement by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Louvre museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo sculpture and one of France’s biggest tourist attractions, said it would close its doors from 1800 (1700 GMT) until further notice.
The Eiffel Tower will close from 2100 (2000 GMT). Its management said the tower would reopen as soon as health conditions allowed.
But some venues were still unsure on Friday afternoon whether or not they would be taking in spectators, including one cinema in central Paris which said it was keeping its doors open for now as it expected fewer than 100 people.
Before the prime minister’s announcement, gatherings of anywhere below 1,000 people were permitted. But France is stepping up its effort to contain the virus. It is also shutting schools from Monday.
The 130-year-old Moulin Rouge – whose can-can shows featuring dancers in dazzling ostrich feather and rhinestone costumes attract scores of visitors – confirmed it would be closed to the public until further notice.
It was offering refunds, or the option of rebooking tickets for another date, a spokeswoman said.
In the meantime, however, the venue in Paris’s Pigalle neighborhood, surmounted by a giant red wind mill which has become an attraction in itself, will remain lit up, the spokeswoman added.
“We don’t want the Moulin Rouge to lose all positivity and optimism, we want people to still be able to take photos,” she said.
Some of the Moulin Rouge’s 450 employees will keep working, repairing costumes, for instance, to be ready to reopen, the spokeswoman said.
La Gaiete Lyrique, a rock concert venue with a capacity of 700 people, said it would be closed until April 6, with many other show halls following suit.
The Odeon-Theatre de L’Europe venue, which was due to stage Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie with French acting star Isabelle Huppert in the lead role on Friday, also confirmed that performances were canceled.
France had reported 2,876 cases of coronavirus and 61 deaths as of Thursday.
(Reporting by Sarah White, Dominique Vidalon, Johnny Cotton and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Christian Lowe and Gareth Jones)