Shanghai Disneyland reopens — with face masks, social distancing and QR health codes

A young woman wears a red bow and holds a doll as she takes a selfie at Disneyland in Shanghai

Shanghai’s Disneyland became the first Disney amusement park to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, sending a strong signal of recovery in Shanghai. But it was not back to normal.

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The park, which had been closed for three months, took numerous precautions to ensure safety and prevent crowding, including limiting visitor numbers to well below normal. Disney’s chief executive officer, Bob Chapek, said that the company hopes to increase the number of visitors by 5,000 each week until it reaches the 30% cap set by the government.

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Opening day tickets sold out within minutes, and tickets for the rest of the week sold out quickly as well. Many of those who came on opening day were annual pass holders, eager to return with their children whom they dressed up as Disney characters.

A mother photographs her child wearing a face mask and a princess gown at Disneyland in Shanghai.
A girl wearing face mask poses for a picture at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 11, 2020. Aly Song/Reuters

With school still not back in session for younger students in Shanghai, parents were taking advantage of the reopening to enjoy some added perks, including shorter lines and fewer crowds. Xia Yang, a 29-year-old father from Shanghai, brought his two children to the park with his wife to celebrate his 4-year-old son’s birthday. “It felt great! The lines were so short, only five to 10 minutes for each attraction. In the peak season, we normally have to wait over two hours for some rides,” he said.

Daisy Chen, 35, from Fujian province, took the day off her job as a marketing executive in Shanghai to bring her 5-year-old daughter Nuan Bao to the park. Dressed as Minnie Mouse, she and her daughter were selected to join the opening ceremony and got to see all the Disney characters appear — a special opening-day perk that was not afforded to regular visitors.

Disney characters appear on opening day at Shanghai Disneyland
Actors dressed as Disney characters are seen at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 11, 2020. Aly Song/Reuters

During this reopening period, the park has announced that there will be no close-up photo opportunities with Disney employees dressed up as characters.

“We didn’t really join in any big shows, because some of the shows were closed, but it was just fun, happy to hear the music, to see everyone smile, although everyone was wearing the masks and the social distance was kept very well,” she said.

The park enforced social distancing through stickers on the ground to show people where to stand in line. Visitors had to go through multiple temperature checks and had to provide their health QR code, which is used as a safety measure to track individuals’ contacts.

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Workers wearing face masks paint social distance markers on the ground at Shangahi Disneyland
Workers wearing face masks prepare social distancing markers at Shanghai Disney Resort a day before the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, May 10, 2020. Aly Song/Reuters  

All employees and most visitors were wearing masks, and hand sanitizer was provided at entrances to indoor areas. The park has suspended parades, fireworks and performances during this period. But play areas outside the park were filled with children climbing up and down on the playground equipment.

Luna Qian, from Shanghai, brought her sons, ages 6 and 3, to the park with her husband. “I think if it wasn’t safe enough, they wouldn’t open Disneyland, so I see everything they take care, like hand wash, hand sanitizers, and people have distance so, I feel quite safe,” she said.

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Even with the lower numbers in the park, there were plenty of people in the surrounding Disneytown shopping area. Visitors streamed out with shopping bags full of merchandise. Inside the Disney store, Jennifer Wong and her husband were wandering the aisles with their 4-year old daughter. “She’s so happy, she’s been inside for so long, she was really wanting to come,” she said. “Every time we come here, we always have to buy something. Today, we’ll probably buy her a watch.”

Reopening the park sends a strong signal of economic recovery to Shanghai and China.

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