Hong Kong relaxed pandemic restrictions on Thursday, with Disneyland and museums reopening and nighttime restaurant dining resuming as the city's worst COVID-19 outbreak appears to be fading.
Enthusiastic visitors ran into Disneyland the moment the gates opened after a three-month closure, The Associated Press reported.
Popular theme parks were ordered to close in January as Hong Kong's fifth wave of the coronavirus took hold. Nearly 1.2 million people in the city of 7.4 million were infected in less than four months, and nearly 9,000 have died.
“Since Christmas we haven’t been back here, my daughter’s really happy, she’s been waiting so long,” said Joyce Mak, 36, who brought her young daughter to Disneyland. “Last night she was so excited, she didn’t want to go to sleep.”
The city was caught off-guard as the surge, driven by highly transmissible omicron variant, overwhelmed hospitals. At the peak of the outbreak, bodies had to stored in refrigerated containers because mortuaries couldn't cope.
The easing of restrictions came after officials acknowledged that people were getting frustrated with the measures, and that there must be a balance between fighting the epidemic and resumption of normal activities.
The relaxation of measures before Hong Kong has reached zero COVID-19 cases marks a shift from the city’s earlier strategy, which was aligned to mainland China’s zero-tolerance for any outbreaks. Previously, authorities were reluctant to ease measures until it was clear that outbreaks in the city were stamped out.
A 15-year-old student, Cynthia Cheung, said Disneyland was her ”happiest place.”
“It’s been such a long time since coming here, last time was in December,” she said. “I really missed it.”
Theme parks are currently allowed to operate at 50% capacity, and visitors must show proof of vaccination. Disney employees held up signs reminding people to keep social distance.