MADRID (Reuters) - Madrid residents wearing face masks queued two metres apart to be among the first visitors back in the city’s famed galleries on Saturday, as the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums reopened after nearly three months of coronavirus lockdown.
“I was really looking forward to coming back. To see how it has come back to life makes me very emotional,” said masters student Alejandro Elizalde, who wiped away tears while viewing Diego de Velazquez’s “Las Meninas”, one of the Prado’s most famous paintings.
The government shut state-run museums on March 12 as it locked down the country to curb the coronavirus spread. Curbs have been lifted gradually, with Madrid one of the slowest places to ease restrictions as it was among the worst hit.
The Prado and Reina Sofia are not yet fully open, but many masterpieces, including works by Velazquez and Goya in the Prado and Picasso’s “Guernica” in the Reina Sofia, are on display.
Health measures are in force, including social distancing, reduced capacity and timed tickets for visits. Staff took visitors’ temperatures as they entered the Prado.
Many people noted how quiet the museums were. As one of Madrid’s major tourist draws, a usual Saturday would have seen them packed with visitors.
“It’s a really weird feeling and at the same time it’s really good because I’ve never been in the Reina Sofia with so few people,” said business developer Elena Vázquez.
Spain has so far recorded 27,134 deaths and 240,978 cases of the coronavirus. It will further ease the lockdown in Madrid and Barcelona from Monday, when bar and restaurant patrons will be allowed to sit inside rather than just on outdoor terraces.
And in over half the country, nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, but dancing will not be permitted, the government instead suggesting dance floor space be used for tables.
Reporting by Michael Gore and Miguel Gutierrez; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Frances Kerry
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