By JINSHAN HONG, MANUEL BAIGORRI AND SAMANTHA MASUNAGA JULY 13, 2020 11:21 AM UPDATED1:05 PM (Los Angeles Times)
Hong Kong Disneyland is shutting again, less than a month after reopening, as the city clamps down in a fresh bid to prevent the resurgent coronavirus outbreak from spiraling out of control.
Hong Kong also ordered gyms and bars to close for a week, restored strict limits on public gatherings and introduced fines for anyone refusing to wear a mask on public transport.
The tougher measures, to take effect Wednesday, include drastically limiting the number of people gathering in public to four, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Monday. The limit had just been raised to 50 in mid-June. The city also confirmed its eighth coronavirus death.
Among other measures: Hong Kong will require all inbound travelers to pass a coronavirus test before arriving; restaurants will be allowed to offer only takeout from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.; and the number of patrons at a table at other times is limited to four. Amusement parks, gyms and 10 other types of venues are to close for seven days. Lam said the city will allow civil servants flexibility on working hours and urged companies to let staff work from home.
People who refuse to wear a mask on public transportation face a potential $645 fine.
Hong Kong Disneyland reopened June 18, and its renewed shutdown will begin Wednesday.
Hotels serving the Disney resort will remain open, Walt Disney Co. said in a statement. “They have put in place enhanced health and safety measures that reflect the guidance of health and government authorities, such as social-distancing measures and increased cleaning and sanitization,” the company said.
On Saturday, Disney reopened two of its Florida theme parks — the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom — after a four-month shutdown. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are expected to follow suit Wednesday, even as COVID-19 cases have spiked in Florida.
There, guests are required to make reservations before arriving at the park to keep crowds down and increase social distancing. Guests are also required to wear masks inside the parks and must pass a temperature check before entering.
In Anaheim, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure are still shut, but the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district there reopened last week, even as Orange County COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soar.
The Anaheim parks were originally going to reopen this Friday. Disney later reversed course after unions representing thousands of its employees pushed back and sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom saying the reopening would be unsafe.
Disney said it would wait for state guidelines before announcing a new target date for reopening.
Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May.
Hong Kong reported 41 new local coronavirus cases Monday, another record daily high as the resurgence of infections looks set to grow into the city’s biggest wave yet. That brought the total to 1,522 cases, with eight deaths, in a city of more than 7 million people. (California’s Orange County, with a population of about 3 million, has reported more than 24,000 total cases and more than 400 deaths. Florida’s Orange County, home to the Disney parks there, has a population of about 1.4 million; it has reported more than 18,000 total cases and more than 80 deaths.)
Of Hong Kong’s 41 new cases, 21 are related to previous clusters, and the other 20 were of unknown origin, government officials said Monday.
The significant proportion of cases with unknown origins over the last few days suggests that hidden chains of transmission have been circulating in the Asian financial hub for some time as people returned to work and social activities.
Hong Kong is now facing a major setback in its virus containment fight. After reopening for less than two months, schools have been ordered into an “early summer holiday,” while restaurants and bars limit the number of patrons.
“A containment strategy alone may not be able to slow down the spread of infection at this stage,” Chuang Shuk-kwan, an official with the Department of Health, said Monday. Senior government officials are “very concerned about the situation now.”
Chuang called for citizens to remain vigilant and to observe personal hygiene and social-distancing practices.
Events including Hong Kong’s weeklong book fair and the champion awards dinner by the Jockey Club have been canceled, in a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over. Without an effective and widely distributed vaccine, cities are likely to continue in a state of limbo in which any easing of social distancing will lead to a spike of infection.
Hong and Baigorri write for Bloomberg. Masunaga is a Times staff writer.