Disney says it is ready to reopen its Florida theme parks within strict new capacity guidelines after nearly four months, despite soaring levels of coronavirus infection across the US.
Walt Disney World Resort will begin a phased reopening of its theme parks on Saturday (11 July) at "significantly reduced" capacity, starting with its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks.
Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will follow on Wednesday (15 July). Disney said it would take a "responsible approach" to how it reopens its theme parks, draw experience from the reopening of Disney Springs on 20 May, and that of Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland.
The US posted on Wednesday (8 July) its biggest single-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases, up in excess of 62,000, which tops the previous record set last Friday (3 July) – more than 10,000 of these cases were recorded in Florida, according to the state health department.
Disney insists the "fundamentals" of the Disney theme park experience will remain the same, despite having to re-examine aspects of the theme park day following guidance from health experts and government agencies.
Visitor numbers will be limited to ensure social distancing, while there will be new procedures for park entry, attractions, dining, retail, transport and other facilities and considerations.
Guests with tickets or annual passes must use a new Disney Park Pass system to make an advance reservation for park entry; reservations will be limited in numbers and subject to availability, although the system will allow guests to to link tickets to ensure they can visit with family and friends.
Dr Pamela Hyall, Disney parks, experiences and products chief medical officer, said Disney’s "deliberate and phased approach" would ensure "multiple layers of health and safety measures".
These include temperature screening upon entry, mandatory wearing of "appropriate face coverings" at all times for all guests aged two and above, encouraging guests to practice heightened hand hygiene, and requiring contactless payment.
New physical distancing and capacity measures will include limiting numbers in indoor locations, such as shops and restaurants, using ground markings to promote distancing throughout parks, including in queues, and introducing physical barriers in select locations.
There will also be restrictions on numbers and party sizes on each park’s various transportation options.
Traditional character greetings and parades will remain on hiatus during the phased reopening, but Disney has said characters will appear in "new and different ways" at all four theme parks.