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France’s coronavirus lockdown may not be over yet, but workers at the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral are gearing up Monday for cleanup efforts to resume next week.
Staff started re-arranging the site to make it virus-safe, such as moving showers and coat rooms to allow more distance between workers and installing a place to eat because restaurants in France are currently closed, according to Notre Dame rector Monsignor Patrick Chauvet.
“It’s a difficult job. It requires the climbers to be calm,” Chauvet told reporters outside the site Monday. “We can't have COVID there to cause them stress."
The cleanup work at the iconic church is scheduled to resume gradually next week after being put on hold in mid-March after the pandemic hit. Chauvet says most workers will stay in nearby vacant hotels so they won’t have to take public transportation.
He added that the priority will be taking down 250 tons of scaffolding that had been installed for a prior renovation project and was badly damaged in the April 2019 blaze.
French President Emmanuel Macron and officials are hoping to see the cathedral reopen in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“We will do everything to keep this deadline,” he said last month, calling Notre Dame a “symbol of our resilience, our capacity to overcome challenges and stand aright.”
After the scaffolding is removed, stones must be analyzed to see which need to be replaced. Debris and huge ancient beams that burned like kindling must be cleared from the soaring vaults, according to Notre Dame chaplain Brice de Malherbe. An umbrella structure will then be built to protect the site, which is now surrounded by high barricades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.