Work on Notre-Dame in Paris halted by coronavirus

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Work on Notre-Dame in Paris halted by coronavirus
This file photo taken on July 9, 2019, shows the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris, as reconstruction works are ongoing after it was badly damaged by a huge fire last April 15. French authorities halted restoration work on the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on March 16, 2020, as the country braces for additional measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. BERTRAND GUAY / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- French authorities halted restoration work on the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday as the country braces for additional measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Workers at the historic landmark in the centre of the French capital had been dismantling the molten metal scaffolding around the church's spire, which collapsed in the catastrophic blaze last April.

Officials told AFP that decontamination measures set in place to deal with danger from the huge quantities of lead that melted in the fire were incompatible with rules set down to deal with the coronavirus.

France has closed down all schools, theatres, cinemas and a range of shops, with only those selling food and other essential items allowed to remain open.

Paris officials on Monday also announced the closure of all public parks and gardens in a bid to prevent people from gathering despite calls for strict "social distancing" by the authorities.

The capital's public transport operator RATP said metro and suburban rail service will be sharply reduced starting Tuesday, after the government urged companies to allow employees to work from home.

"We're seeing on average a 50 percent drop in the number of passengers today across the network" compared with a typical week, the RATP said.

President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation on Monday evening, with many expecting him to unveil more strict home confinement rules in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading.

Macron is also expected to announce whether the second round of French municipal elections will go ahead this weekend, after the first round of voting on Sunday saw a plunge in voter turnout amid the strict anti-contagion measures.

France reported Sunday that the number of coronavirus deaths had jumped to 127 from more than 5,400 cases of infection, with several hundred people hospitalised with serious cases.

© Agence France-Presse

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