Virus-hit Mexico City reopens museums, cinemas

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Virus-hit Mexico City reopens museums, cinemas
A worker sanitizes a cinema hall of the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, on August 12, 2020 as museums, cinemas and pools are reopening in Mexico as part of the easing of restrictions amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. The novel coronavirus has killed at least 743,199 people, 53,929 in Mexico, since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Wednesday. ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP.

MEXICO CITY (AFP).- Mexico is reopening museums and cinemas in the capital after months of lockdown, but face masks and social distancing are the new normal for culture vultures in a city still battling the coronavirus.

At the iconic Soumaya Museum, security guards wearing face shields and gloves watch over mask-wearing visitors snapping selfies with artworks and wandering the near-empty hallways.

The museum, with a curving facade inspired by Auguste Rodin's sculptures, houses more than 60,000 pieces of art including works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

Visitors to the attraction, founded by Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, must wear a mask and have their temperature checked before entering.

Fewer than 200 people entered its doors on the first day after reopening, compared with around 2,000 before the pandemic, a museum employee said.

Those who did make the visit welcomed the chance to escape from the boredom of self-confinement.

"Now you can have the opportunity to balance your emotions a bit and feel safer and happier," said Maria Elena Diaz, a 33-year-old psychologist.

Patricia Velazquez, a 51-year-old public sector worker, said she felt "a bit trapped" under her face mask, but was happy to be immersed in art again.

For those who cannot be there in person, the museum also offers virtual tours, its director Alfonso Miranda said.

At the newly disinfected Cineteca Nacional, popular with aficionados of art house and foreign movies, most of the seats were marked as reserved to ensure social distancing.

Signs on the floor reminded users to keep a healthy distance, while the message "Welcome. Cineteca Nacional misses you" appeared on-screen.

"We were closed for five months. Now we're going to return with 30 percent occupancy. Only 120 people will be able to enter a large room for 400 people," said supervisor Ricardo Avila.

Like elsewhere in the city, temperature checks, antibacterial gel and face masks are de rigueur as authorities try to prevent the spread of a virus that has claimed nearly 55,000 lives across the country.

© Agence France-Presse

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