Fireworks boomed as more than 33,000 visitors at Shanghai Disneyland waited — and waited — for, surrounded by health workers dressed from head to toe in white protective suits.
Shanghai Disneyland announced suddenly Sunday evening that it was no longer accepting any new visitors and was cooperating with an epidemiological investigation from another province. It then locked down the park as Shanghai city health care workers and police rushed to conduct a mass testing of the visitors already inside.
After testing everyone, the park will remain shut on Monday and Tuesday as it continues to cooperate with pandemic prevention efforts, Shanghai Disneyland said in a statement Monday.
The park's sudden lockdown and temporary closure underscored just how serious China is about enforcing its zero-tolerance pandemic prevention strategy.
Globally, many countries have turned to living with the virus, whether out of choice or necessity, although as virus surges come and go, many face overburdened health care systems and additional deaths.
Disney in October announced it was relaunchingat Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, after putting the tradition on hold over the past year due to COVID-19. However, guests have been asked to keep their social distance when taking selfies with the characters, as hugs and autographs aren't yet allowed.
In China, which has kept its borders sealed since March 2020, the response has been to cut the chain of transmission of the virus as quickly as possible. With a strict quarantine-on-arrival policy, the authorities have aimed to stamp out each local outbreak to zero — helping China keep its reported totals to 4,636 deaths and 97,243 cases since the pandemic began.
Critics have described China's COVID policy as, but it apparently has largely worked to keep the virus from spreading, and China's leaders have taken credit for the success. Experts say China will likely continue with the same strategy moving forward.
One COVID case in Hangzhou
The case that may have prompted Shanghai Disneyland's actions involved one person whose illness was discovered in the nearby city of Hangzhou and had visited the theme park on Saturday, local media reported.
For hours on Sunday night, tens of thousands of families and visitors were stuck in the park as they waited for a negative test result that would allow them to leave.
The city announced Monday morning that all 33,863 people who had been at the park over the weekend had tested negative for COVID-19. They will be asked to get tested again and their health will be monitored.
One Disney fan, who gave her family name as Chen, said she was inside the park when she heard an announcement at 5 p.m. that everyone must get tested.
"No one complained, and everyone behaved really well," Chen said, adding that she holds an annual membership and visits the park at least once a month. She is waiting at a hotel for her second COVID-19 test before she can go back to Beijing.
Wave of lockdowns
China's response to COVID-19 has been a tidal wave of COVID testing, lockdowns, flight cancellations, postponement of sporting events and a rush to develop a booster shot to target the Delta variant.
Shanghai Disneyland is just the latest example of how far Chinese authorities will go to stop the spread of the virus.
Last Thursday, Beijing Railway authorities told health authorities in Jinan to halt a train that was traveling from Shanghai to Beijing because one passenger was a close contact of someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Jinan health authorities then sent health care workers, transportation workers and police rushing to the station to quarantine the passengers and disinfect the train. They sent 212 people into centralized quarantine, including the close contact.
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