French Mayor Opens Museums, Defying Coronavirus Orders

France, like most of Europe, saw a spike in coronavirus cases over the winter, as new variants spread across the continent. Now, case numbers appear to be stabilizing, partly thanks to a 6 p.m. curfew, but remain high. On Thursday, there were some 21,063 new cases and 360 deaths. As of Friday morning, France had recorded nearly 81,000 deaths in relation to the virus.

But variations in case numbers have not stopped rising opposition to restrictions on cultural life.

France’s bookstores led the charge, with a handful refusing to close when the lockdown was ordered in October. Florence Kammermann, the owner of the Autour d’un Livre store in Cannes, which stayed open for several weeks despite the order, said in a telephone interview that the police visited her business four times and issued a fine. But she did not regret her decision, she said.

She was completely opposed to the National Rally party and its policies, she added, but she supported Aliot in reopening museums. Many in France complained that the country’s lockdown rules were illogical, she added, “but they don’t have the guts to do this.”

French theaters have also staged protests against their forced closure. In December, several venues symbolically reopened their doors to let actors and fans into their entrance halls, though after the action, they shut again.

Jean-François Chougnet, the president of the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean, in Marseilles, said in a telephone interview that France’s museum directors would happily accept any conditions if they allowed them to reopen their doors. “Just tell us,” Chougnet said. “We are open to anything.”

On Monday, Roselyne Bachelot, France’s culture minister, held a Zoom call with the leaders of several museums, including the Louvre, to discuss how they could reopen safely. She told attendees that museums would be the first cultural venues to reopen once the virus was under control, said Emma Lavigne, the president of the Palais de Tokyo, who was on the call.

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