September 21, 2020

Walt Disney World reopens in Florida amid Covid-19 surge

A view of Walt Disney World resort in Florida Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Walt Disney World has been closed since March due to concerns over coronavirus

Walt Disney World Resort has begun to reopen in Florida as coronavirus infections surge across the US state.

The site’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened on Saturday. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are expected to follow from 15 July.

Visitors will be required to wear masks and adhere to other safety measures across the complex in Orlando.

Over a quarter of a million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Florida, along with 4,197 deaths.

Disney first closed the resort in March during the early months of America’s outbreak. While infections were largely focused in New York and California at first, Florida is among several states recording a rise in cases in recent weeks.

In Orange County, where the resort is based, authorities have reported 16,630 cases – some of the highest numbers in the state.

As a result, many cities and counties across Florida have reinstated restrictions that were lifted in May when infections began to drop.

Despite the outbreak, hundreds of people made their way to the Disney flagship resort on Saturday.

Some of its competitors, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, reopened to visitors several weeks ago.

Disney has also resumed limited operations at its four parks in Asia, and at Disney Springs – an outdoor shopping mall in Orlando – since reporting a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) hit to profits in the first three months of the year.

“The world is changing around us, but we strongly believe that we can open safely and responsibly,” said Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, in an interview with the New York Times.

“Covid is here, and we have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal.”

People queue outside Disney's Magic Kingdom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Temperature checks are being taken for visitors at the park, and social distancing measures are in place
People queue outside Disney's Magic Kingdom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fireworks shows and parades have cancelled to prevent mass gatherings
Children queuing near Magic Kingdom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Visitor tickets for the rest of July have already sold out, according to NBC News

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