A single covid case has stopped the magic at Shanghai’s Disneyland

A little less magical.
A little less magical.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song
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In the latest example of China’s strict “covid-zero” policy, Shanghai Disneyland has suspended operations after one person tested positive for covid-19 following a visit to the entertainment park on the weekend.

The park announced late on Sunday (Oct. 31) that it had temporarily suspended entry to its facilities in order to “follow the requirement of pandemic prevention and control.” Its re-opening date has yet to be confirmed, according to the statement.

While the resort didn’t explain the specific reason for its decision, several Chinese media outlets, including state-owned CGTN, said that a visitor to the park on Saturday tested positive for covid the following day, when they were passing through nearby city Hangzhou after leaving Shanghai.

Shortly after the person was confirmed to have the virus, China’s massive covid response mechanism sprung into action. At around 6pm on Sunday, the resort announced its decision to suspend entry and stop operating some attractions, while allowing outdoor performances for existing visitors to go on as planned. It also said all visitors who were at the park at the time of the notice would need to take a covid-19 test before they left, and test again within 24 hours. Even if both test results are negative, visitors would also have to “self monitor” their health for 12 days, according to the notice. On Chinese social media, people shared pictures showing massive crowds of visitors waiting in queues to be tested at the park yesterday.

By early Monday morning, the Shanghai government said that it had tested 33,863 people who had been to the Disney venues since Saturday, and all the results were negative. There were no new locally transmitted cases reported in the city on Sunday.

“When fairy tale shines upon the real world”

Draconian measures, including isolation from the outside world, allowed China to control the spread of covid last year, but the country has seen a wave of new cases in recent days, leading authorities to be on high alert for any possible big outbreaks. Despite public debates over whether the western approach of “living with covid” might be more feasible, the official view still seems to favor zero tolerance.

The episode at Shanghai Disneyland, meanwhile, is being hailed by Chinese state media as illustrative of the country’s success in curbing the virus. One viral video showed people taking covid tests at the park against a backdrop of fireworks. “Fireworks bloomed lonely in the night sky. Medical staff and police entered the park and engaged in intensive and orderly nucleic acid testing…[Words from] An internet user: tears are swelling up in my eyes, thanks to all who have marched forward while carrying the burden for us!” wrote People’s Daily, a key government publication, on its official Weibo page.

The newspaper also shared a picture drawn by a user showing Mickey Mouse sitting on a chair and telling a medical staffer in a white hazmat suit that he hadn’t been to places outside Shanghai. Titled, “When fairy tale shines upon the real world of pandemic prevention,” the picture also contained an outline of Disney castles, accompanied by fireworks, as well as the silhouettes of other Disney characters, including Minnie Mouse and Donald the Duck, waiting in a queue to be tested.

Zhang Wenhong, a well-known medical expert who leads Shanghai’s covid advisory panel, said the city’s response showed how the country has “standardized” its processes for dealing with covid. “The fireworks today show me human calmness in dealing with disasters and faith in the future,” Zhang wrote on Weibo.