UK's National Gallery to reopen after virus lockdown

A masked visitor walks past the National Gallery in a near deserted Trafalgar Square in central London.

Britain's National Gallery on Tuesday said it would reopen next week after being closed for more than three months due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The central London venue will reopen on Wednesday, July 8, becoming the first major art museum in the country to do so, as restrictions imposed in late March are finally eased.

Swathes of the hospitality, tourism and cultural sectors are due to reopen in England from this weekend, including pubs and restaurants, due to a decline in virus cases and deaths.

"We want to be a part of the nation's recovery story," gallery director Gabriele Finaldi said.

The government, under pressure over its response to the outbreak that has officially claimed more than 43,000 lives, is hoping the move will help kick-start the economy.

The National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, was founded in 1824 and has a collection of more than 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to the 1900s.

Some 5.7 million people visited the gallery in 2018, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attraction, an industry body.

The gallery said changes have been made for the reopening -- visitors will have to keep two metres (yards) apart and follow three one-way "art routes" to see the collection.

Face coverings are also being recommended.

The National Gallery has extended its Titian exhibition, which was forced to close just three days after opening when cultural venues were ordered to shut.

Other cultural venues to reopen in due course include the Tate, which said it plans to open all four of its galleries on July 27.

London's Tate Modern, which in 2018 was Britain's most popular attraction with nearly 5.9 million visitors, will reopen with its Andy Warhol retrospective.

Tate Britain, just along the River Thames in the capital, will have an installation from Steve McQueen.

Online booking and timed slots for visitors are compulsory to avoid crowding.