Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan announce two-week closure over coronavirus scare

A previous version of this video incorrectly stated how many people the 1918 Spanish influenza killed. USA TODAY

Tokyo Disneyland said Friday that it would close for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus in Japan, one day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked schools nationwide to close for most of March.

The park will be closed beginning Saturday with plans to reopen on March 16. In a statement on its website, the park cited the elevated risk of infection in crowded venues.   

Universal StudiosJapan and Legoland Japan followed suit, announcing a similar two-week closure starting Saturday to, as both parks' websites say, "prevent the spread of Novel Coronavirus." Both amusement parks are scheduled to reopen on March 16.

The closures come as the number of COVID-19 cases in Japan continues to climb. According to data from Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, there have been 228 cases, not counting the 705 cases and the deaths of four Japanese passengers and one British man from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama. 

"The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” Abe said Thursday as he asked elementary, middle and high schools to shut down. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections.”

Tokyo park is third Disney property in Asia to close 

Two Disneyland resorts in Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong have been closed since Jan. 26 just as the Chinese government put parts of that country on lockdown in an effort to contain the then-nascent virus ahead of the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

In a Feb. 4 earnings call, Disney’s finance chief Christine McCarthy said that the company will feel the impact of those closures in its second-quarter and full-year results – to the tune of $175 million. (For the sake of estimating its losses, she said the company is operating on the assumption that the Chinese parks will be closed for two months.)

"At Shanghai Disney Resort, we currently estimate the closure of the park could have an adverse impact to second-quarter operating income of approximately $135 million, assuming the park is closed for two months during Q2," she sad. "At Hong Kong Disneyland, we currently estimate the closure of the park could have an additional adverse impact to operating income of about $40 million for the second quarter." 

McCarthy added, "The current closure is taking place during the quarter in which we typically see strong attendance and occupancy levels due to the timing of the Chinese New Year holiday. The precise magnitude of the financial impact is highly dependent on the duration of the closures and how quickly we can resume normal operations."

On Tuesday, new Disney CEO Bob Chapek told told CNBC, "While this is certainly a bump in the road in terms of the coronavirus, we’ll come through like we’ve come through every other challenge that we’ve had, and that affinity for the brand and our storytelling will way outlast any type of short-term blip that we have from corona.”

The Walt Disney Company owns a 47% stake in the Hong Kong park. The Shanghai park is a joint venture with a Chinese that is split into two companies. Disney holds a 70% stake in one and owns 43% of the second one.

The closure of Tokyo Disneyland will not affect Disney's numbers as dramatically as the Chinese parks because it only earns royalties on that facility, which is owned and operated by a third-party Japanese company. 

Contributing: Cydney Henderson


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