FILE PHOTO: French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot speaks during a news conference on easing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Paris, France November 26, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
December 11, 2020
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) – French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot pledged an extra 35 million euros ($42 million) on Friday to bail out museums, cinemas and theatres left “stunned” by the extension of COVID-19 restrictions for at least three more weeks.
She told BFM television the decision not to reopen museums, cinemas and theatres next Tuesday as planned because COVID-19 infection rates are not falling as fast as the government had hoped was “a true heartbreak”.
“But if we had reopened on Dec. 15 and shut down again in January, that would have killed the cultural sector,” she added.
Noting that the government had already provided 7.5 billion euros in aid to the sector, Bachelot said: “I told (Prime Minister Jean Castex) that we would need an extra 35 million euros to help the sector get through the end of the year.
“I know I will get that.”
Venues will now reopen in early January, if health conditions permit.
President Emmanuel Macron had said a lockdown imposed at the end of October to tackle the pandemic’s second wave would be partially lifted by Dec. 15 if new infections fell to around 5,000 a day. New daily infections were 13,750 on Thursday.
Some cultural figures and institutions expressed anger and disappointment at the government’s decision on Friday.
“It is tough to think that shops, planes, trains and supermarkets in France can welcome the public but not cinemas or theatres that have made such efforts to be safe places,” French actor Pierre Niney said on Twitter.
The National Federation of French Cinemas said it was “stunned by this decision taken at the last moment and with no convincing justification”.
But Oscar-winning film director Claude Lelouch, 83, told BFM TV on Friday: “Health is key. I want to stay positive but I am very sad for all my comrades in the film industry.”
($1 = 0.8244 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Catherine Evans)