Vatican Museums to reopen on Monday

The Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, said they will reopen on Monday after being closed for 88 days due to coronavirus restrictions — the longest closure since World War II.

The world-famous collections will open their doors to the public from Monday to Saturday, but visitors must pre-book tickets and will be given timed entry slots.

Curators used the closure, sparked by Italian government measures introduced to stem the spread of Covid-19, to carry out maintenance and refurbishment works.

That included careful dusting of 15th-century frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, which normally attracts six million visitors a year.

“The Pope’s Museums await you with pleasure!” a statement said.

The news comes amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions, with all but five Italian regions put in the low-risk “yellow” category from Monday.

That allows bars and restaurants to reopen during the day, alongside museums.

Rome’s Colosseum and the Forum were also set to reopen on Monday, although they are to remain closed on weekends.

The Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and regions of Umbria, Puglia and the autonomous province of South Tyrol are the only areas still subjected to tighter curbs in mid-risk “orange” zones.

The entire country remains subject to a night-time curfew however, while table service at bars and restaurants must end at 6:00pm.

Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic early in 2020.

A nationwide lockdown, the collapse of the tourist trade and widespread closures since then have plunged the economy in a deep recession, while almost 88,000 people with the virus have died. (AFP)