More Countries in Europe Close Theme Parks Again

October 26, 2020, 6:49 PM · At least two countries in Europe have closed their theme parks again in the past week, as the number of Covid-19 cases rises in more nations around the world.

On Friday, Belgium ordered parks in that nation to close, while yesterday Italy issued the same order as part of extended business closures in that nation. Elsewhere, France has extended curfews, and Germany has issued new travel restrictions that will force visitors from more countries to quarantine when entering.

Many parks across the continent normally would be closing for the season around this time of year, but an expansion of stay at home orders on the continent would hurt parks with extended schedules that were looking to recoup at least some income from a mostly lost 2020 season.

Among the top 10 most-attended parks in Europe in 2019, according to the TEA Theme Index Report, Sweden's Liseberg did not reopen after the pandemic hit. Spain's PortAventura closed on October 16, but plans to return on weekends starting October 31. Italy's Gardaland is now closed, and France's Parc Asterix closes for the season on Sunday. But the remaining six parks — Disneyland Paris's two parks, Europa Park, Efteling, Tivoli Gardens, and Legoland Windsor — remain open, though subject to international travel restrictions.

You can track Covid-19 cases across the world on the World Health Organization website. For state-by-state data in the United States, I have been following the Washington Post's dashboard, which includes the latest seven-day rolling averages.

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Replies (32)

October 26, 2020 at 11:26 PM

But yes, Newsome is so unreasonable not wanting Disneyland open right now...

October 27, 2020 at 5:41 AM

But these parks were at least able to open up for awhile. Because cases are rising, more restrictions are necessary, but when they were declining or flat, Disneyland and other parks should have been allowed to open. Reopening and reclosing isn’t ideal, but its better than being closed for possibly years.

October 27, 2020 at 8:53 AM

"Reopening and reclosing isn’t ideal, but its better than being closed for possibly years."

Citation needed.

October 27, 2020 at 10:59 AM

By keeping Disneyland closed now, Newsome helped ensure it can STAY open sooner. Absolutely fantastic job from California's state government, thank you.

My heart goes out to Europe as the enter a dark winter. But their numbers are a tiny, tiny fraction of ours, which is to say things are about to become far more bleak in the US than they have since the pandemic began, by a long shot. We'll hit 100,000 a day before election day.

And still nearly 40% of Americans aren't wearing masks. They are our executioners.

October 27, 2020 at 11:35 AM

@JMB: the citation you are looking for is from a quote made by Randy Keith on 10/27/20 :)

Europe had it under control. Now they don’t. There have been over 2 million cases reported in Europe over the past two weeks. Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1111827/coronavirus-cases-europe-in-the-last-two-weeks-by-country/

What they did that many of you cited this past summer was what our current administration should have done because it worked in Europe needs to admit it did not work. Don’t bother replying with “it’s because they tried to reopen”, because in doing so you are implying we should remained closed until we are at a near 0% infection rate, and that isn’t reasonable in the near future.

The WDW resort in Florida has scientifically proven limited reopening is possible, at least according to Disneyland president Ken Potrock. However, when people say, “Believe the science”, what they really mean is “Believe MY science.”

October 27, 2020 at 11:52 AM

This is never going to end is it?

October 27, 2020 at 11:55 AM

I agree with TwoBit: since Europe is having a second wave of the virus, that proves science doesn't exist. Now, I'm off to North Dakota on my kissing tour!

October 27, 2020 at 12:17 PM

thecolonel would lead you to believe that science is absolute, which is what someone who IS NOT a scientist will tell you. A real scientist, such as myself - a licensed, practicing one at that, will tell you that science is the continuous, unrelenting search for the truth. That search NEVER ends, and the truths that scientists seek are never absolute and should continue to be challenged to test their validity. That is the heart and soul of science, and if you think science is just a list of facts and absolutes, then you don't actually believe in science.

October 27, 2020 at 1:14 PM

>> Reopening and reclosing isn’t ideal, but its better than being closed for possibly years.

Not that it’s going to be years, but you have the costs of startup then shutdown whilst hanging on to staff and paying residual employment costs in areas where the government isn’t paying 100%. The uncertainty makes it worse, not better

October 27, 2020 at 1:58 PM

While I cannot comprehend how aquariums, zoos, and theme parks as food festivals are open but theme parks as actual theme parks are closed, it is this fall surge that makes it clear why such popular places remain shuttered in California. Sadly, Florida’s governmental officials lied repeatedly about data, lack the will for accurate contact tracing, and therefore are not reliable sources of information to generate informed decisions across state lines. That said, Europe’s closures clarify why opening later not sooner is a prudent choice, even if not preferable to many corporations, fans, would-be-visitors, let alone workers and communities that would benefit by less-strict criteria for opening “safely.” Pictures on various websites / blogs depict scenes in which Florida theme park crowds are problematic, to say the least. Here’s to theme parks augmenting various systems by which safety will be truly ensured; only then will the State of California consider modification to the mandates set forth, oddly subjective as they may appear to be. As always, thanks, Robert, for the article, and thanks to those contributing to the comment sections throughout this site.

October 27, 2020 at 2:59 PM

Here's the difference between Europe and California...

In Europe, when they order a closure, it is a closure of everything and not just theme parks. They're not operating wineries, gyms, movie theaters, museums, shopping malls, or hair salons like California is, and various curfews and restrictions on travel are in place. Also, let's look at the numbers...Italy had almost 120,000 cases in the last week, and with a population of 60 million, which is about 28 cases per 100k. Belgium had 73,000 with a population of a bit over 10 million, which is 87 cases per 100k. France, which hosts Disneyland Paris and is not closing the parks yet (but is closing other activities), is at about 53 per 100k based on current numbers.

Now, let's look at California. Here, live sports and theme parks are pretty much the only thing that is still fully closed. Practically every other economic sector is allowed to open in some fashion, with many allowed to resume limited operations even in the purple tier. Meanwhile, California's numbers aren't even close to those in Euorpe...from California's state website, we're at 7.2 cases per 100k residents, which is a quarter of Italy and less than a tenth of Belgium. Additionally, in a number of counties the rate is lower, as counties need to be below 7 to drop out of the purple tier. While it is true that many places in Europe were below these numbers over the summer (most got to around 2 per 100k),Few if any reached levels that would qualify them for California's yellow tier, which is required for theme parks to resume operation, yet all but one country in Europe reopened those sorts of businesses.

The argument in California is not that theme parks should unquestionably be opened. Instead, it is that based on our current numbers and based on what other businesses are permitted to operate in the state, there is no legitimate justification for extending their closure. If the state wants to shut everything down, that's fair (though not a good strategy at this time), but their current model is anti-fun and is having far more averse effects on the population than opening those businesses probably would.

October 27, 2020 at 3:27 PM

Russell, I would never think to contradict a "licensed scientist" like yourself, but I have never represented that science isn't a progressive mode of learning. Indeed, when America's pathetic President condemns Anthony Fauci for advancing his conclusions about the disease, he further betrays himself to be an idiot, because of course science always progresses, that's the very nature of the scientific method. We know more about the virus today, but that doesn't mean what we thought previously was wrong or bad, because science always advances, and you can only know what you know at any time.

But that's why TwoBit's comment is so absurd, because he seeks to judge past scientific conclusions on the basis of new information, just like Trump. As with Trump, it's a political move, and he seeks to undermine science in general--as he would have it, science itself is political, and thus "when people say, 'Believe the science,' what they really mean is 'Believe MY science.'"

No, we pretty much just say "believe science," and if you think a scientist who changes their conclusions has bad faith, well, you're an idiot, haha.

As a licensed scientist, I'd think you'd be more keen to push back on Two Bit's lame attempt to further undermine the scientific community. That you'd rather argue with words you put in my mouth shows maybe your politics have outstripped your licensing?


October 27, 2020 at 3:49 PM

And, with respect, Russell surely must know being a learned scientist in one field doesn't make you an expert in another. I mean, if you are in diseases and viruses, okay but I wouldn't quite trust, say, a geologist to be defining physics or a biochemist figuring out weather patterns. That's like saying a foot doctor is surely up on brain surgery.

A smart leader tries to adapt as is happening in Illinois with cases seeing new spikes so once more, indoor dining is banned to try and curtail it rather then "well, it didn't work before so no need to try again, let folks go into bars more with the weather getting colder."

That's what Newsome is worried about, reopening, another spike and having to close again which can be just as damaging. There's still a lot we don't know but we are aware of is that this isn't going to "Just go away like a flu" if we don't treat it seriously.

October 27, 2020 at 5:11 PM

We need to make a whole new debate about this. The one we have is both "tried and tired".

Really, I can't see us returning to some type of normal unless the standards and rigor go way up. Until we do that, we will continue to see new spikes, until the we can get this managed properly.

Yes, here I go banging the drum again, however, OUTSTANDING Contact Tracing and Testing are the keys to getting back to normal. Let's just forget the fact that this has been standard CDC Operating Procedure for over 4 decades and just throw that out...right? The CDC creates those procedures because it is the best way to deal with X Factors.

Governor 1 vs. Governor 2 means nothing. Newsome knows what's he is demanding is not reasonable, but then no one has been reasonable. If he required contact tracing and testing, we'd all be screaming about that too.

You have to test, isolate, and trace. We have to start thinking of this in 0s and 1s. Is or Isn't. I see no reason why we cannot start operating if the standard exists and the standard is rigorous. We simply have neither.

October 27, 2020 at 5:47 PM

To my last knowledge which might be out of date, the general travel ban for out of country risk regions in Germany does not include day trips. Not that it will matter for long anymore. A decision to close theme parks is already a certain outcome of tomorrow's state governor meeting with the chancellor.

As an aside -there also used to be an overnight trip ban for Germans from risk regions, which has been abolished, partly due to successful legal challenges. The standard to be considered a risk region with a travel ban was 50 cases for every 100k inhabitants in a week - now the German average is 80 already.

Things went quite bad quite fast.

Note that much like in the US, the legal authority for those decisions is entirely at the state level.

October 27, 2020 at 5:52 PM

"The argument in California is not that theme parks should unquestionably be opened. Instead, it is that based on our current numbers and based on what other businesses are permitted to operate in the state, there is no legitimate justification for extending their closure. If the state wants to shut everything down, that's fair (though not a good strategy at this time)"

Exactly. Nailed the argument most of have been trying to make.

October 27, 2020 at 6:17 PM

@Colonel: “ But that's why TwoBit's comment is so absurd, because he seeks to judge past scientific conclusions on the basis of new information, just like Trump. ”

What New science has been learned since Europe’s first closure that make the virus even worse? In the U.S, the mortality rate has remained steady, and the infection rate has had peaks and valleys, and it looks as if we will peak once more, just as Europe is doing now.

I stand by my statement. Believe my science can be extended to other topics as well, some of them so controversial I will not talk about on a theme park website. This is not from a scientist, but from someone with a math degree (Class of ‘93) who makes a living at looking at numbers.

October 27, 2020 at 7:11 PM

>> In Europe, when they order a closure, it is a closure of everything and not just theme parks.

Not always. Granted there isn’t a special theme park categories, but many countries are now on a graded system, and some split by local authority area (This is live in England and Scotland’s moves to formal system on Nov 2, Legislation pending). These might put restrictions on some businesses whilst closing others.

However, I think the core point is that we’re more willing to shut it all down here, and that core point is true.

October 27, 2020 at 9:10 PM

@Chad H: Honestly, a full two-month shutdown and mass testing would have been hard short-term but would have cut the spread massively and thus I could enjoy eating at a pub indoors and see a movie while reading about Disneyland celebrating its 60th.

October 27, 2020 at 10:02 PM

MikeW: Please explain how Illinois did not do the things needed to get you to this:

"I could enjoy eating at a pub indoors and see a movie while reading about Disneyland celebrating its 60th."

All summer you bragged about how great a job Illinois was doing with reopening and stopping the spread. It's literally in almost all your posts. So why are you not where you want it to be?? What happened to destroy your dream?

October 27, 2020 at 10:25 PM

Chad, that's fair. I should have been a little more specific in a closure to tourist activities, as other than Sweden I don't think any of the countries that outright ban theme parks still permit zoos, aquariums, museums, and family entertainment centers to operate the way California does.

Mike, I think what you're describing is essentially what a lot of places in Europe did...full lockdown for a couple months, then reopen. As we're seeing, it worked in the short term but now everything is flaring up again. The reality is this thing is going to oscillate between highs and lows until we've got something that actively fights it, and like most waves if the low is lower the high may be higher. We need to adjust focus to minimize net damage rather than specifically virus damage, because the measures we have available are unable to suppress it long term without catastrophic collateral effects.

October 28, 2020 at 12:53 AM

@AndrewL: Because we get cross-traffic from Indiana, which waited longer to put in such mandates and rules; Iowa, which has never put in a statewide shelter or mask mandates and positivity rates of 25 percent (California is 2.9); Missouri, whose governor got Covid himself after refusing for months to do masks and ending shelter earlier; Wisconsin where the governor is being undermined by his courts in implementing such measures; and Michigan where the governor is doing her best but folks fired up enough to plot to kidnap her.

We were seeing improvements then spikes which, most importantly, are also caused by scores of folks (especially downstate) who see our President not wearing a mask and going "It's no big deal, don't live in fear" and thus flaunting any rules by packing in bars and such and thinking a vaccine is "coming any day now."

So now indoor dining once more shut down, winter sports in high schools are being axed and more because our leader is openly telling people "it's nothing to worry about, it'll just go away." Saying months ago "take this seriously, obey the rules and it'll be over faster" would have been much better than this.

October 28, 2020 at 12:37 AM

@AJ Hummell: The problem is the X factor: Human behavior. Because when this started, I doubt many in the scientific community doing this outlines could have guessed that we'd have elected leaders embracing the idea that wearing masks means "your freedom is stolen" and openly telling folks "it's all a hoax." Even after he was nearly on his deathbed from this, our President is openly going "don't live in fear, it's going away" and ignoring the fact it's not. That encourages scores of people to accept the same idea and that just encourages the spread.

And even folks who take it seriously want back some sense of "normal" to bend the rules while some diners in Illinois were letting those restrictions lax to add to spread. Which is why, when the one state that met all the criteria CDC listed for reopening is now facing such troubles, asking a state far larger to open a theme park amid all this is rather foolish.

October 28, 2020 at 11:54 AM

I feel the need to clarify my comment regarding science. My attempt at being broadly subtle was obviously lost in translation. My point was to note the growing chorus of people that cite scientific data without proper context or understanding the method behind those data. You don't need to be a epidemiologist or medical professional to understand the scientific method, and most practicing scientists (and engineers) can apply their knowledge of the scientific method from their varying fields to see the truth in any data while other "non-scientists" would twist those data and amplify them with underlying emotions and/or societal impacts.

What I see is a lack of reasonable and balanced scientific approach to applying the data to determine public policy. As thecolonel has frequently argued, theme parks represent a high, non-essential rung on the societal ladder that poses a potential risk for further spread of the virus. It's easy to say, "Close them down", because it's not something people NEED to do, and keeping them closed eliminates ALL risk that theme parks would pose. However, as a society, we need to strike a balance, and use all of the tools in the toolbox instead of immediately going to the "elimination/substitution" level of the safety pyramid. In this case, we need to evaluate what is the real risk of operating a theme park given the current conditions with the proposed safety protocols and procedures.

That is where I think California is missing the boat and being hypocritical. Scientists have yet to reach a consensus as to how the virus transmits in different environments. We heard for months about "droplets" and touching non-sanitized surfaces (wiping down groceries and mail) as the key vectors of spread, but now evidence seem to be suggesting more transmission occurs through aerosols with transmission through surface contact being highly unlikely. Given this uncertainty in transmission, keeping theme parks closed seems reasonable, but doesn't make sense when you consider people can encounter the same risk at malls, movie theaters, family entertainment centers/arcades, and casinos that are being allowed to operate. It's even more baffling to consider that those businesses that are being allowed to operate can do so with no overriding industry or government safety standards, while the theme park industry has provided specific written protocols for their operations. When you take all of the various risks and individual mitigation found between these different environments, it's hard to argue that a day at a theme park is any less safe than spending a day at the beach or the mall, despite thecolonel's passionate appeals to the contrary.

The other scientific hypocrisy that is lost in all of this error. I used to work in an environmental lab that was expected to produce results with 99.5% accuracy (meaning as many as 5 in every 1,000 results could be incorrect). That was for analyses that directly affected human health, just as with the coronavirus. When you look at the standards California has put forth in their tier system, it doesn't account for any error (or least anywhere that I can see in the written guidance). From most reports, the error rate for testing the coronavirus is somewhere near 5% (5 out of 100 tests are either false positive or false negative). That's a perfectly acceptable error rate in medicine, especially given the increasing need to produce results rapidly. However, California's standards do not account for this natural error, which will not go away until the virus has been completely eradicated from the planet, a highly unlikely scenario even within the span of our lifetime.

This is why I think science needs to be in the forefront here in terms of providing people a way to manage the risk. Instead, scientists are not making these decisions, it's government agencies that are making their own interpretations of the data without scientific consensus. We all need to come to the scientific reality that this virus is not going away, even if we all lock ourselves in our homes for months on end. It will still be out there in 2021 and 2022 and 2023, and probably even beyond. Instead, we need to adjust the ways we work and play to limit our risk (and yes "play" is an important part of society and the human condition that cannot simply be ignored). Theme parks are trying to demonstrate a way to operate amidst the virus, but some here (and elsewhere) feel that we cannot "reward" ourselves with such "luxuries" until this pandemic has abated completely. It's scientifically impossible to promise that such a condition will emerge within the next 10 years, so instead we should see how different businesses and experiences can adapt. California is not even giving theme parks that chance, while allowing other industries the chance to do so. That is the great hypocrisy in all of this, and demonstrates how unscientifically California has handled this situation despite all their fancy graphs, data presentation, and statements from suffixed professionals.

October 28, 2020 at 12:35 PM

Sounds like France is also heading to a bigger national level shutdown, at least of leisure/private activities. Leisure travel seems to be a bit of a hot potato issue independent of theme parks in many places. The crux is that it's rather difficult to ensure compliance regarding riskier holiday activities without hurting many that risk little, or at least not more than on a typical week at home. That’s mainly a discussion for better times anyway, now that we are, with good reason, heading towards more severe general restrictions.

October 28, 2020 at 2:41 PM

@Hans, I also think that leisure travel is problematic because so many locales and business sectors rely on it to survive. Additionally, leisure travel is a pre-planned, "sunk" cost that people are unlikely to get back (even if you have travel insurance because of new pandemic clauses and policy interpretations). No one wants to see their $10k vacation cancelled by government lockdowns, especially when there's no prospect of ever getting any portion of that investment refunded. You throw that $10k loss on top of a layoff/redundancy or working hours reduction, and you can understand why people are growing wearing and upset at the situation.

October 28, 2020 at 2:49 PM

@MikeW - For me its how total is total.

I think what we had here in the UK at the start of the year was close to right... What Wales has now, where you can sell bread, but not the toaster to toast it in, or the plate to put it on is to me too far

October 28, 2020 at 3:42 PM

@Chad H:Well, there are the extremists calling for grocery stores shut down, ignoring that's going to set off a lot more problems. But I just got back from my physical and doctor saying that indoor dining in Illinois should not have been allowed back so quickly (it would have been better outdoors in summer anyway) as inside runs further risk of infections and why masks should be worn even going on elevators.

I work in an open-air warehouse, everyone masked but bosses constantly checking to ensure everyone is okay, no symptoms and doors open for ventilation (which s rougher with weather now in 40s but required) and such. A balance yes but I still think trying to open a theme park amid a new wave is a foolish idea and the doctors are the ones to listen to a lot more.

Someone nicely pointed out that "people are horrible judges of their own health. Someone gets a mild cold and thinks it's Covid. Someone goes a week with full Covid symptoms and thinks it's nothing. A person thinks crippled by a leg bruise or can walk off a broken bone, it's why teams never trust athletes to have final say on whether they can play or not."

October 28, 2020 at 7:13 PM

Mike, that is definitely an issue that is exacerbated by heavy-handed measures put in place by elected officials. The western world is used to having leaders and not rulers, but many are acting more like the latter, and when the results are consistently bad it raises a lot of questions. I said back when this started that restrictive regulations could buy two to four months to create a more workable strategy, but chances of the population going along with them for longer were incredibly low without very promising results. We're now at month eight, and pretty much anyone who isn't irrationally afraid of this thing is starting to question what we're doing. Unlike before, it's not just the US this time, and without some agreed upon international standards for controlling the spread moving forward, very little we do will make a sizable difference in the eventual outcome.

October 28, 2020 at 9:19 PM

@AJ Hummel: Because as I pointed out above, several states refused to even do shelters or mask mandates and let the spread go on, all fired up by elected leaders refusing to wear masks and openly going "It's no big deal" even when they get sick themselves. You think Newsome or Pritzker or Cuomo Wants to crash their economies? No but we're now seeing that future shutdowns are just as damaging as reopening too soon. See France and Germany.

October 29, 2020 at 5:46 AM

Oh lord the virus isn’t going to kill us all nor will it be magically leaving anytime soon. Accepting a calculated strategy and the related risk is the only answer to determining the path forward. Take your pick

October 29, 2020 at 9:15 AM

@MikeW - But did France and Germany really open "too soon"? That's the real question here, and I would argue that those countries were extremely responsible in controlling the spread and slowly reopened sectors of their economies to get the wheels rolling again. While surges are causing these countries to take a step back, I don't think a slower reopening strategy or keeping tight lockdowns in place would have made much of a difference. In the end, many businesses are being forced back into hibernation for some unknown period of time, but at least they're going into it with some money in the bank earned over the past couple of months. If these businesses were never given the chance to reopen (like theme parks in California), many would be on life support and teetering on bankruptcy.

I think it makes far more business and logical sense to toggle restrictions on and off based on the data. We should treat the situation like most engines deal with overheating - techniques are used to try to keep the temperature within operational parameters, but if things get too hot, the engine is either shut down or significantly throttled back to allow it to cool back down.

Yes, there are costs associated with opening and closing businesses, especially ones as complex and intricate as a theme park, but allowing them to operate when conditions are "cool" and then shutting them down if things get too "hot" is far better than keeping them closed for long periods of time. Based on projected surges occurring around the world, now might not be a good time to give a place like Disneyland the green light (by the time they get up and running, it's possible they'd have to shut right back down), but if they were allowed to operate back in mid-late August, they could have more than made up for the costs to reopen and to bank additional revenue to cover closing costs if conditions get too "hot".

Until a vaccine is widely distributed and more effective treatments are available for COVID-19, this toggling on and off of restrictions and rolling closures is probably the most practical and effective way to approach this situation.

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