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French theater, cinema workers protest against virus closure

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Workers from the cultural sector gather during a protest, in Paris, Tuesday, Dec.15, 2020. Representatives of the performing arts sector protested against the ongoing closure of theaters and cinemas in the country as France on Tuesday is lifting a lockdown imposed on 30 October, but strict measures are still in place as infections are still high. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS – Thousands of people working in the French theater and cinema industries demonstrated in Paris on Tuesday against the prolonged closure of entertainment facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

France earlier Tuesday lifted a partial lockdown imposed on Oct. 30, but will still maintain strict measures at least until Jan. 7, including a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., as numbers of infections remain high.

Theatres, cinemas and other performance halls, together with bars and restaurants, will remain shut over the holidays.

Workers in the cultural sector gathered at Place de La Bastille, in front of the modern opera house that has been closed for weeks.

Among them, Veronique Bellin, deputy director of the new theatre of Montreuil in the eastern suburbs of Paris, said health measures had been in place before the lockdown to protect spectators.

"Today we see that the government accepts that churches reopen, and these are the exact same conditions, but people can’t go to the theater or cinema. We don’t understand,” she said.

The government announced last week a 35-million euro ($42 million) additional support package for the cultural sector. Yet protesters expressed fears that many jobs won't survive the crisis.

Stage set designer Thibault Sinay said: “We hear about big money being announced but, for theatre productions and creations, we don’t see any money coming. It’s really hard for us.”

It is the second time French theatres and cinemas have been closed down to slow the spread of Covid-19. They were shut from March to June, during the first lockdown.

Health authorities said they registered over 10,000 new confirmed daily infections last week. On Monday, they reported 372 deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals, bringing the country's overall death toll to more than 58,000.

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