Disneyland Paris reopens, but no hugs for Donald

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MARNE-LA-VALLE (AFP) – Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction, reopened its gates Wednesday after four months of coronavirus lockdown, albeit with limited access and a ban on hugging the famous characters.

As festive music played, Mickey, Pluto and other Disney characters greeted the first visitors — all sporting face masks and some the trademark Mickey Mouse ears — while keeping a safe distance from the guests.

Despite the merry mood, things at Disneyland are not quite back to normal as the COVID-19 pandemic was again showing a slight uptick in a country where it has claimed more than 30,000 lives.

Earlier this month the Disney World resort reopened in Florida, and Disney has already resumed activities at its theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

But a surge of COVID-19 cases in California prevented the planned reopening of Disneyland near Los Angeles on July 17, and no new date has yet been set.

As at other resorts, visitor numbers at Disneyland Paris will be limited, the attraction’s operator said, without indicating the ceiling.

All guests from age 11 must wear masks, and visitors must observe social distancing in queues and on rides.

Sanitising hand gel has been made available at more than 2,000 distribution points.

The operator said “close interactions, including hugs” for Disney’s cuddly mascots will be “temporarily suspended”, there will be no princess makeovers, and the daily parade of characters will return only at a later date.

More than 17,000 people work at Disneyland Paris, which began halting shows and limiting visitor numbers even before France’s official lockdown took effect in mid-March, after some maintenance workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Some 45 kilometres (28 miles) away in central Paris, the iconic Eiffel Tower reopened its top level on Wednesday in another symbolic step towards a return to normal in one of the world’s most visited cities.

Last year, Paris and its surrounding region chalked up 50 million visitors, a number that hospitality industry officials expect to plunge this year because of strict travel curbs imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.

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