Eiffel Tower to reopen after record nine-month closure

Paris: The Eiffel Tower is to reopen to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

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The lifts of the “Iron Lady” are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre (1,000-foot) summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.

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And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements.

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“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” the head of the operating company, Jean-Frangois Martins, told AFP.

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After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the “lady is ready”.

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Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

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Martins said there was an “almost total absence” of British ticket holders, while only 15 percent were Americans and very few are from Asia.

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Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.

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The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.

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It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh 60-million-euro cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 percent to 25 million euros in 2020.

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The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

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Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to labourers.

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Tests are still underway and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.

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