May 29, 2020 / 7:21 PM / a month ago

Florida officials approve Walt Disney World reopening plans

FILE PHOTO: Fireworks go off around Cinderella's castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World's new Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida December 6, 2012. REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo

(Reuters) - Florida officials have approved plans for a phased reopening of Walt Disney World (DIS.N) in Orlando starting on July 11, according to a memo from a state agency released on Friday.

The successful reopening of its parks is a signal event for Disney and the rest of the world as governments and companies strategize how to move out of lockdown while the novel coranavirus is still a threat.

The state also cleared Sea World Entertainment Inc (SEAS.N) to reopen on June 10, said Halsey Beshears, secretary of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, in a memo sent to officials in Orange County, Florida.

When the Disney parks reopen, guests and employees will be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The resort will suspend parades, fireworks displays and other activities that create crowds.

Disney will encourage contactless payment systems and expand its existing mobile order systems in restaurants, it said on Wednesday. It plans to restrict the number of guests, who will be required to reserve their park passes ahead of time.

Starting in January, the media and entertainment giant closed theme parks around the world to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The company had estimated it lost $1 billion at its theme parks division from January through March.

On Wednesday, Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Chapek told CNBC the company currently has about 20,000 people per day visiting Shanghai Disneyland, which reopened on May 11 with mandatory masks, temperature screenings and social distancing for visitors and employees.

Disney is soon expected to reveal plans for reopening its Anaheim, California, Disneyland amusement park, the company’s original themed attraction.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Sandra Maler and Aditya Soni

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