The Eiffel Tower has greeted tourists for the first time in nearly nine months, reopening to the public even as France introduces new rules aimed at taming the fast-spreading Delta variant of coronavirus.
The “Iron Lady” of Paris was closed in October as France battled its second surge of the pandemic, and remained shut for renovations even after other French tourist draws reopened last month.
The reopening came four days after President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures aimed at warding off a fourth surge, including mandatory vaccinations for health workers and mandatory Covid-19 passes to enter restaurants and tourist and other venues.
Starting on Wednesday, all visitors to the Eiffel Tower over the age of 18 will need to show a pass proving they have been fully vaccinated, had a negative virus test or recently recovered from Covid-19.
Masks are required, and the number of daily visitors to the tower will be limited to about half the pre-pandemic level of 25,000.
The rules did not seem to scare crowds away on Friday.
“Bienvenue – Welcome – Wilkommen – Bienvenido” flashed on a screen as families, couples and groups lined up or posed for photos beneath the tower.
“We worked, we worked, we worked (for this day). And when I saw my first visitor, I was very, very happy. Emotion and happiness,” Eiffel Tower director Patrick Branco Ruivo told reporters.
“Before Covid, it was 80% foreigners, 20% French. Last year, it was 80% French, 20% foreigners. And this year, it’s amazing because it’s 50-50. And for us, it’s the time that foreigners are coming back to the Eiffel Tower,” he said.
France has opened to international tourists this summer, but the rules vary depending on which country they are coming from. While visitors are trickling back to Paris, their numbers have been far from normal levels, given continued border restrictions and virus risks.
Looking over 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 Mr Duval, who was among the first to make it to the tower’s top-floor viewing deck. “To be on top of the world’s most beautiful city, what else can you ask for.”