May 23, 2020 / 11:41 AM / a day ago

Vatican Museums, Holy See's cash cow, to reopen from June 1

An empty corridor inside Vatican Museums as staff prepare for reopening on June 1 with new social distancing and hygiene rules after months of closure due to a spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this still image taken from an undated video in Vatican City. Musei Vaticani/Handout via REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican Museums will reopen on June 1, the Vatican said on Saturday, ending a closure caused by the coronavirus lockdown that has drained the Holy See’s coffers.

A statement said the Museums, which house some of the world’s greatest Renaissance masterpieces as well as ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts, can be visited from the beginning of June, though only by making on-line reservations in order to control the number of people.

Visitors will have their temperatures checked and will have to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Staff will wear masks and gloves and health workers will be on hand.

Similar conditions will apply to visitors to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

Italian museums began reopening on May 18 as part of a staged easing of lockdown measures in the country where nearly 33,000 people have died from the virus.

The pandemic has drastically slowed the flow of funds to the Vatican’s coffers. The Museums received some 7 million visitors last year and are the Holy See’s most reliable source of income, previously generating an estimated $100 million yearly.

Even after the reopening, officials fear that enhanced security measures, social distancing requirements, new health regulations and an expected dearth of international tourists will erode ticket and souvenir sales.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by James Drummond

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