The general in charge of reconstruction work at Notre Dame cathedral has said rebuilding will resume today and progress stage by stage as workers repair the fire damage while respecting social distancing.
General Jean-Louis Georgelin said the rebuilding, which was suspended in mid-March because of the difficulty of respecting the new rules needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic, had been agreed after extensive consultations with the project managers and construction companies concerned.
"As part of the gradual resumption of activity from Monday, I have made sure that the appropriate measures and procedures were implemented in order to guarantee the respect of barrier gestures and maintenance of social distancing,” he said.
President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to do his best to ensure the cathedral's reconstruction is finished by his ambitious target date of 2024. In a tweet on 15 April, the first anniversary of the Notre Dame fire, he also said the work “will restart as soon as possible”.
Georgelin said the first task would be to reopen the site headquarters, including offices for managers and workers, and add new decontamination facilities larger than the previous ones.
The threat of poisoning from tonnes of lead on the spire and roof that vaporised and spread like dust throughout the building during the blaze has required workers to wear special protective clothing.
Cabins used to don this covering and showers for use after work were ruled too cramped after the new distance rules were announced.
Only about 10 people, mostly project managers and construction company officials, will be present at first to make sure the site headquarters on the plaza outside the main entrance is ready for the workers to return in phases.
Work could then resume on the removal of a jungle of scaffolding above the transept, which was installed before the blaze. This was there for the restoration of the spire that was then destroyed in the flames. The roof beneath it disappeared.
This work was initially scheduled to begin on 23 March but was suspended because of France’s pandemic lockdown, which is among the strictest in Europe.
Workers must also clear away debris from the roof fire, such as the burned remains of the timber roof structure, which now lie in a heap on the upper surface of the cathedral vault.
The next task will be the erection of scaffolding at the western end of the nave to remove the famous great organ there, which survived the fire but must be disassembled and cleaned before it can be played again.
The small organ in the choir section was badly damaged by water pumped in to douse the fire.
Workers at the site will have face masks and hand gel dispensers at their disposal and meals will be delivered to the site for them, according to a statement. A hotel near the cathedral will be used to house workers from outside the Paris area.