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China locks 30,000 visitors inside Shanghai Disneyland after one guest got Covid

China locks 30,000 visitors inside Shanghai Disneyland after one guest got Covid

HONG KONG : Shanghai Disneyland was temporarily shut down from Sunday after a visitor was found to be Covid-19-positive, underscoring the economic disruption businesses in China face as the country strives to stamp out infections. The world’s most populous nation has committed to maintaining “zero tolerance for the virus despite criticism from business groups, a close to 80% vaccination rate, and a world which is gradually learning to live with Covid-19. China is taking stringent measures to contain pockets of the coronavirus in the country. It recorded 48 domestic cases on Saturday across several provinces. Though extremely low compared with countries that are moving to live with the virus, the infections have prompted business closures and mass testing in certain areas. Shanghai Disneyland was required to test almost 34,000 people Sunday before visitors could leave the resort, after a woman who had attended the park a day earlier was found to be infected with Covid-19. Sunday’s visitors all tested negative but were ordered to self-isolate for another 24 hours before a second test. The park and Disneytown, a shopping and dining complex, will be closed until at least Wednesday, Shanghai Disneyland said. The theme park reopened in May after being closed for several months, as China sought to reboot parts of its pandemic-hit economy. Before the pandemic hit last year, Disney’s parks division was a reliable moneymaker and had seen strong income growth for much of the decade. China’s approach contrasts with developments elsewhere in the region. Australia, which had adopted a “Covid Zero policy for most of the pandemic, on Monday eased international border restrictions for vaccinated citizens and permanent residents. Thailand began allowing vaccinated tourists from more than 60 countries to enter the country without quarantine. South Korea and Japan relaxed social distancing measures, with Seoul allowing gyms, restaurants and cafes to open at any time, and Tokyo lifting the 10,000-person cap on spectators at events. The US is planning to lift travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers on Nov. 8. In China, economists have noted, consumers since the beginning of the pandemic have adapted their habits to adjust to sporadic disruptions to daily life, though continued containment measures could weigh on already sluggish economic growth. In the past few months, households responded to containment measures by shifting spending away from in-person activities, Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in an Oct. 26 note. “But with China still pursuing a zero-COVID strategy, another round of widespread containment efforts remains a constant threat, he added. The effects are being felt across the country. Ruili, a city in China’s Yunnan province on the border with Myanmar, has endured four lockdowns since last September. In April, after Ruili officials said they would temporarily shut down the city’s jewelry trading market—and online live broadcasting by jadeite traders—jewelers from all over the city left with their families. The number of permanent residents in the previously bustling border city decreased. A former vice mayor of Ruili, Dai Rongli, said the lockdowns caused severe emotional and material loss, asking for financial and other support as well as a loosening of restrictions on businesses there. “Since the small town assumed responsibility for the protection of the country, the motherland should offer a strong hand to protect the tortured child, Mr. Dai wrote on his personal social media account on Thursday. Other tourist spots have been affected. Xitang, an ancient water town in the east coast province of Zhejiang, has been closed because of rising cases. Some parts of Guizhou Province, in southwest China, banned tourists from other provinces. In the northernmost province of Heilongjiang, Heihe city halted all bus and taxi services. In Shanghai, before the testing order, revelers at the Disneyland theme park had been celebrating its fifth anniversary through most of October with Halloween-themed exhibitions such as a Disney villain balcony walk and “Donald’s Halloween Treat Cavalcade. Videos shared by guests on social media showed swarms of people—many dressed up in Halloween costumes—queuing up for tests before they could leave. One showed the Disney evening fireworks erupting behind workers in hazmat suits conducting tests for park visitors. “I never thought that the longest queue in Disneyland would be for a nucleic acid test, one visitor said on social media. The testing requirements were triggered after a woman who had visited the park on Saturday found out she was a close contact of a confirmed case. The woman was on her way home by train but stopped en route in eastern Hangzhou upon realizing that she could have been exposed to the virus. She tested positive in Hangzhou early Sunday, according to information released on government social-media accounts. Tourists traveling between cities and provinces have hastened the spread of the virus. A retired couple from Shanghai who was on a cross-country trip tested positive for the virus on Oct. 17. The former university professors had undergone a routine test to enter the terra-cotta warrior museum in Xi’an. Cases have since been tracked to multiple regions, including the capital. The Beijing marathon, slated for Sunday, was also canceled. Shanghai Disneyland said it would refund tickets and notify guests as soon as there was a confirmed date for resumption of activities. Guests who visited the park over the weekend must isolate themselves for two days, and be tested for Covid-19 several times over the next two weeks. The park is 57%-owned by a state-backed consortium, Shanghai Shendi, and 43% by Walt Disney Co. Disney’s parks division had been a reliable moneymaker. In the four years to 2017, its annual income rose 70%. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, the unit’s operating income rose 11%. The Shanghai park opened in 2016 after a decade of planning: a $5.5 billion bet that is Disney’s biggest overseas. Download.

politics 2021-11-02 Livemint