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Disney shutting theme parks in California, Florida over coronavirus

Reuters | Updated: 13-03-2020 06:55 IST | Created: 13-03-2020 06:55 IST
Disney shutting theme parks in California, Florida over coronavirus

Walt Disney Co will close its theme parks in California and Florida and its resort in Paris from this weekend through the end of the month due to the global outbreak of coronavirus, the company said on Thursday. Disney Cruise Line will suspend all new departures starting Saturday through the end of the month, the company said.

"We are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month," the company said in a statement. Disney earlier had said that its Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Southern California would be closed from Saturday.

The hotels at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris will remain open until further notice, the company added. The company's theme parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo remain closed after being shuttered earlier this year in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which started in China.

Disney's stock ended down 13%, on a day when Wall Streets major indexes all slumped about 10%. No cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been reported at the parks in Anaheim, California, a company representative said in a statement. The announcement coincided with statewide restrictions on public gatherings ordered by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Comcast Corp's Universal Studios theme park near Los Angeles also will close on Saturday with plans to reopen on March 28, the company said. Newsom ordered a statewide ban on most non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people, including sporting events, business conferences and concerts, but his directive exempted casinos and theaters, as well as theme and amusement parks.

Disney said it decided to voluntarily close its Southern California parks "in the best interest of our guests and employees" after reviewing Newsom's directive. As of Thursday, 198 coronavirus cases have been documented in California, including four deaths, Newsom said.

California is one of a handful of states, along with New York, that have adopted such drastic "social distancing" measures, designed to limit transmission of the highly contagious respiratory virus by curtailing close contacts among people. Ohio and Maryland have ordered statewide closures of public schools. Disney-run hotels in Anaheim will remain open through Monday to give guests time to make travel arrangements, the company said. Disney will pay its employees during the shutdown and refund payments for hotel bookings, it added.

Located about 30 miles (48 km) south of Los Angeles, the two Disney parks drew 28.6 million visitors in 2018, according to the Themed Entertainment Association. Disneyland, which opened in 1955, is nicknamed the "Happiest Place on Earth." The adjacent California Adventure park was added in 2001.

After Disney's announcement, S&P revised Disney’s credit outlook to negative from stable, citing event cancellations and travel restrictions due to coronavirus. "The negative outlook on Disney reflects the increased uncertainty around the extent of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the global economy,” S&P said.

It is unusual for Disney to close its theme parks. Brief shutdowns have occurred due to hurricanes and following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The company estimated in February that the shutdowns of Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland alone would cost $175 million if both remained closed for two months.

(Reporting and writing by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)


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