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Coronavirus Fears Have Closed The Louvre And Prompted Warnings Against Kissing In France

"Despite discussions between museum staff ... the Louvre was unable to open today," a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Posted on March 1, 2020, at 12:52 p.m. ET

Stephane De Sakutin / Getty Images

The Louvre Museum was closed on Sunday after its staff met to discuss "the health situation" surrounding the coronavirus, workers' fears and prevention, a representative for the French museum told BuzzFeed News.

"Despite discussions between museum staff, management and its preventive [medicine] doctor, the Louvre was unable to open today," said Sophie Grange, the assistant director of communications.

Before the museum reached its decision, people who had bought tickets for Sunday waited outside for hours as the doors remained closed. The museum apologized and is offering them refunds.

Long lines at the Louvre this morning. No word on opening. The security people are just says they don’t know when or if the Louvre will open today. #Louvre

Grange said another meeting with staff on health and safety protocols will be held Monday. It's unclear when the Louvre will re-open.

Millions of people visit the museum every year, and about 3/4 of them are from foreign countries.

Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative, told the AP that the staff is quite fearful of potentially contracting the coronavirus because the museum sees tens of thousands of visitors a day from around the world.

"We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere," Sacristin said. "The risk is very, very, very great," he said, adding that "it's only a question of time."

There are no known cases of any Louvre employees having the coronavirus, but French leaders spent the weekend warning residents and visitors about the threat of the virus.

On Saturday, the French government announced a ban of any gathering that exceeds 5,000 people in a confined space. And any event of this size that had been planned previously is cancelled.

Officials have also recommended that people stop greeting each other with kisses, the iconically French gesture also called "la bise," to limit physical contact.

Charles Platiau / Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron kisses Paris' Mayor Anne Hidalgo during his inauguration.

According to data compiled by WHO and researchers at Johns Hopkins University that's being updated in this BuzzFeed News post, there are currently 100 reported cases of the coronavirus in France, and two people have died.

Europe's largest outbreak is the neighboring country Italy, where there are currently 1,128 reported cases and 29 deaths due to the virus. According to AP, French employees of the Louvre were specifically fearful of workers who travel between Italy and France frequently.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.