This photograph taken early April 26, 2020, shows Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, on the 40th day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP.
by Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere
PARIS(AFP).- Building experts met near Paris's Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday to decide how to restart restoration works on the fire-ravaged monument while respecting restrictions designed to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Chief architect Philippe Villeneuve and a dozen planners examined hygiene measures and social distancing rules during their meeting at temporary offices at the cathedral.
"It is extremely important to ensure everyone in the frontline works in safe conditions in the face of the pandemic," General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the government's pointman for the restoration, told Europe 1 Radio.
The restoration was already a troubled process before the virus -- emergency crews having to remove dust with toxic lead particles, deposited as the roof melted.
All building work ground to a halt in mid-March as a result of the virus, and is due to resume only gradually.
When workers get back on the site next month, they will be faced with another challenge -- removing a tangled web of metal scaffolding that fused in the blaze.
The metal tubes have to be removed to allow a more durable temporary roof to be erected to protect the cathedral's priceless artworks from rain.
Taking down the scaffolding will only resume when measures are put in place to ensure the safety of aerial workers who have to scale high up the towers with ropes.
On the first anniversary of the fire, which erupted on April 15 last year, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his goal of restoring Notre-Dame to its former glory by 2024.
"We will do everything so that this timeline is respected," said Georgelin.
But he warned: "This means returning the cathedral to worshippers. It does not mean everything will be finished."