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Museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic, warned the UN

06:15 | 01/06/2020

Museums are hesitantly starting to reopen as the coronavirus lockdown is relaxed in many nations across the world. However, experts say that one in eight could face permanent closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported AP.

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On the occasion of International Museum Day (May 18), two studies by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) said that museums have been especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 90 percent of them, or more than 85,000 institutions, having closed their doors for varying lengths of time during the crisis.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
A boy walks by a model of a dinosaur wearing a face mask, during a partial lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at the Museum of Natural History in Brussels. Photo: AP

"It is alarming data that we are giving", Ernesto Ottone, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO said in an interview with the Associated Press (AP). According to Ottone, the problem cuts across the board, affecting museums big and small, new and established, featuring art or science.

Museums that indicated they might well not reopen "have been closed for months and they have no revenues. And they don’t know how they’re going to get their revenues", he said, emphasizing that, when they reopen "they won’t have the capacity to update their infrastructure" to conform with social distancing and other pandemic precautions.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Visitors wearing a face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 admire statues in the Rome Capitoline Museums, including the second century A.D. Roman marble statue "Cupid and Psyche", at right. Photo: AP

Raf Casert, reporter of the AP noted that some costly blockbuster shows have suffered heavy damage this spring. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibit bringing together fragile paintings by Flemish master Jan van Eyck had barely opened in Ghent, Belgium, when it was abruptly canceled. It won't be resumed, as many of the works were on loan and had to be returned.

In Rome, a similar supershow on Renaissance artist Raphael had to close after just three days, but was able to hold on to all 120 works and will now reopen June 2 through Aug. 30.

UNESCO and ICOM shared with the AP a fact that nearly 13% of museums around the world may never reopen. While the situation is even getting worse in poorer countries, things are pretty bleak in wealthy countries, too.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Visitors wearing protective face masks visit the 'Kunst der Moderne' exhibition at the Staedel Museum as the museum reopened to the public during the coronavirus crisis in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

"Museums play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies," UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said. "We must help them cope with this crisis and keep them in touch with their audiences."

The study conducted by ICOM highlights the fact that museums that have been deprived of their visitors will face a decrease in their income. More specifically, the Network of European Museum Organizations (NEMO) said large institutions in tourist hotspots like Paris, Amsterdam, or Vienna have suffered income losses of up to 80 percent, "that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars a week". Similarly, other places such as the Stedelijk and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or the Kunsthistorisches in Vienna, could lose up to 2.5 million euros ($2.75 million) a month.

Ottone said matters were particularly tough in Latin America, "where 99.4% of all museums are closed right now."

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Visitors wearing face masks look at “The Boy with Thorn,” a 1st-century B.C. bronze statue, in Rome's Capitoline Museums. Museums in Italy were allowed to open this week for the first time since March. Photo: AP
"So you have a continent that doesn’t have anything open," said Ottone. "It’s the first time in our history and it will be very difficult to come out from this crisis for those institutions."

It is little wonder that royalty and prime ministers are now lining up to boost their cultural institutions.

"We have to show our support at the maximum level to this sector by coming here, to show that they are open again and that people can come back here in complete safety, but also by taking measures and decisions... to support them, ” said Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Belgium's King Philippe, center left, and Belgium's Queen Mathilde, center right, visit the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Photo: AP

The AP observed and found that across Europe, such reopenings provide some hope:

In Berlin, four museums and one special exhibit that reopened had 10,000 visitors over the past week - about 43% of last year’s level for the same week. Visitors need to buy tickets for a particular time slot, which limits the number of visitors.

In Italy, one-time epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, the Villa Borghese and the Capitoline museums, both home to Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures, reopened recently.

There’s still no reopening date set for Italy’s biggest cultural draws, including the Uffizi in Florence and the Vatican Museums or the Colosseum in Rome.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
A woman wearing a mask for protection from the coronavirus rides her bicycle outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo: CNS

The same goes for France. Big hitters, such as the Louvre - the world’s most visited museum - and the Pompidou Center remain shuttered after an easing of restrictions May 11. The Louvre announced recently it is planning to reopen on July 6. Greece reopened its ancient sites - including the Acropolis - on Monday, and set a June 15 date for museums.

It is noticed that the situation remains dire amid uncertainty over when tourism, a lifeline for most museums, will resume.

"It’s going to be a very, very difficult year," said Pierre Coulon, Operation Director for Public Affairs of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Museum. "And we don’t know exactly how long it will last and when we will recuperate a normal income".

Despite the negative picture of the industry, recently, in a tweet, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that museums may be temporarily closed, but they remain a source of knowledge and discovery for many -- now through virtual tours in particular, according to Rediff.

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Tourists, some wearing a mask, queue to enter the Louvre museum in Paris. Photo: AP

Closures and cancellations due to COVID-19

In Vietnam, a number of festivals and events have been cancelled or postponed in alignment with the government’s directive to avoid public gatherings:

- Huế Festival 2020 - Postponed to August 28, 2020

- F1 Vietnam Grand Prix - Postponed

- Da Lat Sufferfest - Postponed

- Quang Binh Marathon - Postponed

- Techcombank Ha Noi Marathon - Postponed

- Da Nang International Fireworks Festival 2020 - Cancelled

- Da Lat Ultra Trail 2020 - Postponed to June 19-21, 2020

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Danang International Firework festival in 2019. Photo: vietnam.travel

Health and safety precautions for travelers

Travelers in Vietnam are encouraged to take sensible precautions against COVID-19 during their trips.

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines these basic practices to keep yourself and your loved ones safe:

1. Avoid traveling if you have a fever and cough. If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, alert health care services and share with them your recent travel history.

2. Maintain social distancing. Stay a meter or more away from others, especially those who are sneezing or coughing, or have a fever.

3. Wash your hands regularly with soap and running water. You can also use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer to spray your hands as often as you like.

4. Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of dirty tissues immediately and wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.

5. Avoid contact with live animals. Wash your hands with soap and water if you touch live animals or animal products in markets.

6. Eat only well-cooked food. Make sure your meals especially animal proteins and dairy products are thoroughly cooked and prepared in a sanitary environment.

7. Discard single-use masks. If you choose to wear a single-use mask, ensure it covers your nose and mouth, avoid touching the mask, and wash your hands after removing it.

"Any travelers experiencing symptoms of the virus — fever, cough and difficulty breathing — should immediately call Vietnam’s health hotline: 19003228".

(Source:Vietnam National Administration of Tourism)

museums worldwide at the risk of being shut down by the pandemic warned the un
Vietnam has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world for travellers. Photo: vietnam.travel
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