As the threat of coronavirus grows around the world, with 244 people confirmed as positive here in the UK as of March 8th, our museums across the country are now implementing measures to protect visitors, staff members and their collections.
According to artnet, the Association of Independent Museums is due to publish a guide to help institutions around the UK, with advice including not to be dismissive of the public’s fears surrounding the virus. It also recommends that if employees are told by doctors to self-isolate after travelling abroad, museums should still pay their wages.
It seems that museums are being proactive as they wait for these guidelines to be published, however, with many already taking steps to deal with the crisis. For example, the Tate has chosen to extend the loan of over 70 works to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, with the objects remaining there till May.
And at the National Gallery, staff members and director Gabriele Finaldi had been planning to go to Japan for the opening of a loan exhibition at Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art, but they’re now staying in London. The Tokyo museum itself, meanwhile, has been on lockdown since the end of February as a precaution, due to reopen on March 16th.
The National Gallery has also confirmed that it will continue paying employees who have been asked to self-isolate, with the days not counting against their sick leave allowance.
Both the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum have posted a statement on their websites saying that they are monitoring advice from Public Health England, which has assessed the risk as moderate.
And Historic Royal Palaces (which manages heritage attractions like the Tower of London) has said that it has now installed more sanitizer and handwash in public and staff areas.
The latest government release from Public Health England shows that two patients who tested positive for coronavirus have died. The data also breaks the confirmed cases down by region, with Hertfordshire currently showing the highest number at 13.
Returning travellers are being advised to stay indoors and avoid coming into contact with others if they have travelled to the UK from lockdown areas in northern Italy, special care zones in South Korea, the Hubei province in China and Iran – even if they have no symptoms.
Members of the general public can help support the UK’s response to the threat by following the advice from public health authorities on handwashing and reducing the spread of misinformation by only using official trusted sources for information.
Ensuring that vaccinations are up to date is also recommended, as is keeping in touch with elderly or vulnerable relatives and neighbours.
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