THE ASHMOLEAN and Oxford University’s other museums have closed their doors to the public as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The closure sees the Beaumont Street museum – the oldest public museum in the world – shutting from today for an undisclosed period. The university’s Museum of Natural history, Pitt Rivers and Museum of the History of Science are also closing.

The move comes at a bad time for the Ashmolean, with a new world-class Rembrandt exhibition underway. The closure also affectes its popular rooftop restaurant and shops in the run-up to the traditionally busy Mothers' Day.

In a statement, the Ashmolean said: “Following Government recommendations, the Ashmolean Museum will be closed from the 17 March in an effort to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

“The health and safety of our visitors, students, staff and volunteers is paramount so we are temporarily closing the entire building and cancelling our public programmes.

The museum is active on social media, tweeting out images of fascinating objects from its collection and plans to continue sharing interesting tales from the museum for the duration of its closure.

A spokesman said: “We will publish our re-opening date as soon as it is known. We will continue to share objects, artworks and stories on our channels during these trying times, so please do follow along for a daily dose of good news. We hope to be able to welcome you to the museum again soon.”

A Pitt Rivers spokesman said: “Due to developments surrounding COVID-19, Pitt Rivers will be closed to the public. Although the museum will be closed to visitors, we hope you will visit us online and stay in touch via our social media channels.”

Modern Art Oxford and the Didcot Railway Centre have also decided to close their doors, though Blenheim Palace and the Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford, stay open and are welcoming vistors.