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The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has used the reconstruction of the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral as a metaphor for the country pulling together after Covid-19 as France reached the symbolic mark of 100,000 deaths from the virus.

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Macron, who is under pressure as locked-down France faces a third wave of the pandemic with many hospitals at saturation point, toured the upper levels of the Notre Dame site in a hard hat and overalls on the second anniversary of the fire that ripped through the roof of the Gothic masterpiece in 2019.

Workers talked to him about their efforts to secure and steady the site, despite difficulties due to lead levels and Covid restrictions.

Macron told Le Parisien that the damaged cathedral, which is expected to partially reopen in 2024, was “like a metaphor for what a lot of people are feeling and what we’re living”.

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