Eiffel Tower reopens after nine-month COVID closure

The ‘Iron Lady’ of Paris was ordered shut in October; now visitors are allowed to enter after showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

The lifts of the 'Iron Lady' again whisked tourists to its 300-metre (1,000-foot) summit [File: Lewis Joly/AP]

The Eiffel Tower has reopened to visitors after nine months of shutdown caused by the COVID pandemic, the landmark’s longest closure since World War II.

The lifts of the “Iron Lady” again whisked tourists to its 300-metre (1,000-foot) summit and its majestic views of the French capital as a marching band played.

“It’s a gift to be here. We really love Paris,” said Ila, who came from Hamburg, Germany, and waited more than two hours with her daughter Helena to be among the first to the top.

“Tourism is coming back to Paris and we can again share the happiness, with visitors from around the world, of this monument and Paris,” said Jean-Francois Martins, head of the tower’s operating company.

The number of daily visitors to the tower will be limited to 13,000 a day instead of 25,000.

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 as COVID cases again begin to climb.

“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” Martins told AFP news agency.

The opening came after France reopened to international tourists this summer, however, the rules vary widely depending on which country they are coming from. The number of visitors has been nowhere near pre-pandemic levels given continued border restrictions and virus risks.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also welcomed the opening and encouraged visitors to “rediscover the emblematic monument”.

Translation: After more than 8 months of closure,@LaTourEiffel finds its visitors today! An emblematic monument of Paris to (re) discover!

Half of visitors expected to be French

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

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

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

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

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh 60-million-euro ($70m) cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 percent to 25 million euros ($29m) in 2020.

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.

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

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

Fireworks illuminate the Eiffel Tower in Paris during Bastille Day celebrations late on July 14 [File: Lewis Joly/AP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies