With “Welcome” messages in multiple languages, the Eiffel Tower greeted tourists on Friday for the first time in nearly nine months, reopening to the public even as France introduces new virus rules aimed at taming the delta variant at rapid spread.
The smiles were wide and the emotions palpable as the first masked visitors climbed the elevators towards the top of the Parisian monument.
“It’s such a lovely place and wonderful people … and now the magnificent Eiffel Tower,” said German tourist Ila Mires, using the French name for the tower. She came with her 19-year-old daughter before the young woman left to study in Amsterdam. Seeing the tower on their last day together in Paris “is such a gift for mother and daughter,” Mires said.
Paris’ “Iron Lady” was closed in October as France battled its second wave of the pandemic virus, and remained closed for renovation even after other French tourist attractions reopened last month.
The tower reopened came four days after President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures to prevent a fourth wave, including mandatory vaccinations for health workers and mandatory COVID-19 passes to enter restaurants and tourist and other places.
Starting Wednesday, all visitors to the Eiffel Tower over the age of 18 will be required to present a pass proving that they have been fully vaccinated, tested negative for the virus, or have recently recovered from COVID-19.
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Masks are mandatory and the number of daily visitors to the tower will be limited to about half of the pre-pandemic standard of 25,000.
The rules didn’t seem to scare the crowds on Friday.
“Bienvenue – Welcome – Wilkommen – Bienvenido” flashed on a screen as families, couples and groups lined up or posed for photos under the tower.
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“We worked, we worked, we worked (for this day). And when I saw my first visitor, I was very, very happy. the director of the Eiffel Tower Patrick Branco Ruivo.
“Before COVID, it was 80% foreigners, 20% French. Last year, it was 80% French, 20% foreigners. And this year, it’s incredible because it’s fifty-fifty. And for us, this is the time when foreigners arrive back at the Eiffel Tower, “he said.
France opened up to international tourists this summer, but the rules vary depending on the country they come from. As visitors return to Paris, their numbers are far from normal levels, given persistent border restrictions and virus risks.
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Overlooking the elegant French capital, Philippe Duval of Bordeaux and his family admired the view.
“It’s an event we didn’t want to miss,” said Duval, who was among the first to walk to the observation deck on the top floor of the tower. “To be on top of the most beautiful city in the world, what more could you ask for.”
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