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Mona Lisa back at work, visitors limited, as Louvre reopens

Visitors watch pantings at the Louvre Museum, in Paris, on July 6, 2020. The home of the world's most famous portrait, the Louvre Museum in Paris, reopened after a four-month coronavirus lockdown. (AP Photo/ Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) -- The Mona Lisa is back in business.

    Paris' Louvre Museum, which houses the world's most famous portrait, reopened Monday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown and without its usual huge throngs.

    Face masks were a must and visitor numbers were limited, with reservations required. Among the trickle of returning tourists was Zino Vandenbeaghen, who traveled from Belgium to enjoy the unusual space at both the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

    "It's super," he said. "The ideal moment to visit."

    About 70% of the giant museum -- 45,000 square meters (484,000 square feet) of space, or the equivalent of 230 tennis courts -- housing 30,000 of the Louvre's vast trove of works is again accessible to visitors starved of art in lockdown.

    "It's very emotional for all the teams that have prepared this reopening," said Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum director.

    The bulk of visitors to what was the world's most-visited museum before the pandemic used to come from overseas, led by travelers from the United States.

    Americans are still barred from the European Union that is gradually reopening its borders. The Louvre is hoping the reopening will attract visitors from closer to home, including the Paris region, but is bracing for a plunge in numbers.

    Martinez said the museum was expecting just 7,000 visitors on the reopening day.

    Before the pandemic, as many as 50,000 people per day toured the Louvre in the busiest summer months.

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