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Arts

Vatican Museums to close again because of coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: An empty corridor inside Vatican Museums is seen through bars as staff prepare for reopening on June 1 with new social distancing and hygiene rules after months of closure due to a spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this still image taken from an undated video in Vatican City. Musei Vaticani/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican Museums, which house some of the world’s greatest art treasures, will close for a month in line with new restrictions by Italy to tame a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.

The vast museums re-opened to limited numbers of visitors on June 1 after a three-month closure during the first COVID-19 wave in Italy.

The Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday that they would be closed from Thursday to at least Dec. 3.

Italy on Wednesday was due to enact tougher measures, including a nationwide nightly curfew and the closure of museums and exhibitions, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican Museums, which include Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, drew about 6 million people a year and were a cash cow helping Vatican finances.

On Wednesday morning, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, which had resumed with the public participating, was moved back indoors and held virtually after one participant tested positive at a public audience last month.

Speaking from his private library with only a handful of priests assisting him, the pope urged people to follow coronavirus guidelines set by authorities and health experts.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson

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