Walt Disney World has reopened in Florida after nearly four months amid a surge in Covid-19 infections in the state.
Parts of the entertainment complex which bills itself as “the Most Magical Place on Earth” opened to visitors on Saturday with new rules to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
But there were reports of crowds and long queues at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks.
Carlye Wisel, a journalist who covers theme parks, tweeted: "[H]aven’t even made it in the gate yet and my heart is pounding out of my chest. just had to squeeze past a lane of opposite traffic while there’s this densely packed line for guest services. this is unacceptable — and I haven’t even made it into the park yet."
The crowding led to Ms Wisel leaving before she managed to get inside the park. Disney plans to reopen two other areas, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, in four days' time.
The reopening comes as a huge surge of Floridians have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. On Saturday, there were about 10,000 new cases reported, according to state statistics. Many cities and counties around the state have recently reinstated restrictions that had been lifted in May, when cases appeared to drop.
All of Disney’s Orlando parks closed in mid-March in an effort to stop Covid-19's spread. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando closed around the same time but reopened several weeks ago after implementing restrictions to protect employees and customers from the virus.
haven’t even made it in the gate yet and my heart is pounding out of my chest.
just had to squeeze past a lane of opposite traffic while there’s this densely packed line for guest services.
this is unacceptable — and I haven’t even made it into the park yet. pic.twitter.com/GTzsAjRlD2— 🍭 carlye wisel (@carlyewisel)July 11, 2020
Lori Lovell of Evansville, Indiana, strolled around Disney World's Frontierland on Saturday morning with friends.
She told the Associated Press: “I have missed coming here. It just feels really good to be back. This is where I’ve made so many memories. It’s kind of our second home. Not being able to come here was hard.”
Disney’s new rules include mandatory masks and social distancing. Visitors will need reservations to enter a park, and they won’t be allowed to hop between parks. Both visitors and employees will receive temperature checks when they enter. Fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to prevent drawing too many people together.
AP reported that nearly everyone in sight wore masks on Saturday morning, hand sanitiser stations were set up, and that capacity was reduced from normal circumstances.
Some attractions and dining areas aren’t yet open. In another change, visitors can’t hug and greet the costumed Disney characters. Instead, the characters are in “cavalcades,” or motorcades, as they make their way through the park.
Disney has been opening its parks back up around the globe for the past two months. In May, the company opened Disney Springs, a complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in Lake Buena Vista.
Associated Press contributed to this report