Vlog: Shanghai Disneyland under COVID-19

Andy Boreham
This week, after being closed for 107 days because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Shanghai Disneyland reopened, and guess who was there!
Andy Boreham
Shot by Ma Xuefeng and Andy Boreham. Edited by Andy Boreham. Subtitles by Zhong Youyang and Hu Jun.

This week, after being closed for 107 days because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Shanghai Disneyland reopened.

It was quite a milestone, not only for Shanghai but for the rest of the world. There are six Disneyland parks on the planet, five of which are still closed because of the pandemic. The reopening of the Shanghai park is symbolic and shows what can be achieved after a long battle with COVID-19.

But Shanghai Disneyland is by no means “back to normal”, whatever that may mean. Numbers are severely limited — some estimates suggest only 20 percent of capacity was allowed in on Monday when I was there — and numerous safety measures mean that the magic kingdom may not have the same feeling you remember, or the feeling you hope for.

There are the usual measures, like maintaining social distance and wearing a mask at all times, but they take on new meaning at Disneyland. For example, social distancing means that rides go off half full, there are no photos together with your favorite Disney characters, and the place overall feels a whole lot less lively.

For me that was a plus, because I’ve never been a fan of lining up for anything, let alone standing in the heat for 2-3 hours to take a thirty second ride.

Because of the limited number of tickets being sold, you’ll need to grab a dated ticket online, even if you are an Annual Pass holder. Tickets for Monday went on sale early in the morning last Friday, and I managed to snap up three before the official ticket sale time even began.

There are other measures in place for now that make Disneyland that little more unrecognizable, for example the popular Disney character street parade doesn’t take place anymore, which was a high point for many children who visit the park. You’re encouraged not to touch or play with toys in the gift stores unless you absolutely intend to buy them — that’s got to be hard for the kids!

On top of that, summer is fast approaching, so staying stifling hot under a face mask all day is quite tough. The mercury hit 29 degrees Celsius on Monday, and you can definitely feel it. It’s only going to get hotter.

And we’re only human — despite very obvious markings on the ground designed to keep visitors at a safe distance from one another, especially when queuing for rides, it’s hard to always follow the rules, especially when you’re juggling kids.

At times staff were on hand doing their best to keep those lining up a meter apart, but at other times there were no staff to be seen, and people naturally bunched together again in anticipation of the exhilarating ride ahead.

Hopefully they’ve already sorted that issue out and more staff are around to maintain safe social distance in queues.

Despite all of these measures in place because of COVID-19, Disneyland will still probably feel magical for you, if it’s your kind of day out.

I chatted with a woman from the USA who works in Shanghai and was decked out in a cool outfit which included a yellow Disney handbag. She has been to five of the world’s Disneyland parks and wasn’t phased at all by the “new normal”.

“It’s still a magical place and everyone here is always so happy,” she beamed. “I’ve waited a long time to come back and wouldn’t have missed today for the world.”

It definitely is a magical place, but it’s probably going to be my last time visiting. I don’t know how I could stomach waiting two to three hours again after hopping on my favorite rides in five to ten minutes!

But I do hope, from the bottom of my heart, that the world’s remaining five Disneyland parks can open soon, because that will definitely mean the world is a much happier place.

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