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Tourist Attractions Reopening in China: What Does it Mean for U.S. Sports?

10 Apr, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel may be in sight. At the very least, it is cause for a glimmer of hope and optimism, thanks to news of developments in China. Theme parks and museums across the country, closed since January 24 because of coronavirus, are starting to reopen.

Health Screenings, Limitations Show Optimism Tempered with Caution

The news was carried in late March in Blooloop, the online resource for workers in the visitor attractions industry worldwide. According to one article, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park reopened on March 20. However, it has implemented new safety regulations, including limiting visitor numbers, checking visitors’ temperatures and only taking cashless payments. Another source noted the theme park will also keep visitor numbers under half of its daily capacity, while indoor areas will be kept under 30 percent capacity.

Maybe limited capacities and health screenings aren’t what everyone wants to hear (most would like to know the country is open for business without restrictions) but it’s a start. Incredibly important to remember is that Wuhan has reported no new cases of COVID-19 and is starting to allow traffic in and out of the area.

While theme parks in the U.S. and in other countries remain temporarily shuttered, Shanghai Disney Resort partially reopened on March 9 with a limited number of shopping, dining, and recreational experiences.

"The task now is to get the economy operational again and ensure that jobs that were lost are reinstated," notes Forbes. "Government officials around the country are being encouraged to spend at least 100 Yuan in stores to boost consumer spending in the world’s second-largest economy. Over 3,700 of China’s “A-level” designated scenic tourist attractions are now open, which represents 30 percent of the total that were closed. Almost all the retail stores that were previously shuttered have also reopened their doors. China is very much emerging from the countrywide lockdowns that began in January, With most borders around the world closed or restricting access to entry, including strict self-isolation restrictions, the world is looking at how China is now emerging out of the crisis two months later for hope.”

The Shanghai Disneyland theme park remains closed, but the move marks “the first step of a phased reopening” in China, according to Disney. 

The recovery appears to be going unevenly, however; the Huangshan mountain range, a popular tourist site in China in the Anhui province, was forced to close after tens of thousands of people visited in one weekend according to South China Morning Post.

So What Does This Mean for the U.S. and Its Events?

Ah, the question everyone has. Truth to tell, the answer isn’t cut and dried.

A timeline of the emergence of the virus in China, and its spread across the globe, can be found here. However, for those seeking to create a parallel timeline with the pandemic in the U.S., it is essential to note that a study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and the geographic spread of the virus limited. The timeline clearly demonstrates that China's cover-up and the delay in serious measures to contain the virus lasted about three weeks.

Many U.S. Residents Participating in Denial/Coverup of Their Own Making

Unfortunately, in the U.S., while health officials are acknowledging the virus and its threat, a huge percentage of the public is failing to take the actions recommended, inclluding self-quarantine, working from home and practicing social distancing. Many are blithely continuing to shop in stores, play pick-up games in outdoor recreational facilities and engage with others closely in person, rather than following the recommendations for social distancing and no physical contact. Others blame the media or big pharma (everyone’s favorite villains these days) for causing a panic or profiteering off the virus. In short, when people don’t take the virus seriously, they practice the same cover-up and denial measures as China. And while most states have enacted stay-at-home orders, some still have not.

Italy, which is ahead of the U.S. on a timeline of its own, should be watched closely by those who want to witness the trajectory (and with any luck, the fall) of the virus. At the moment, Italy is in the teeth of it, with the Italian death count topping that of China, according to CNN

Something interesting to note here: While Italy is in lockdown, medical experts say it’s not strict enough, particularly in the hard-hit Lombardy region of northern Italy.

The situation in Lombardy right now "is similar to what we experienced two months ago in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of COVID-19," the Chinese Red Cross vice president, Sun Shuopeng, said Thursday in a press conference in Milan, Italy. "Here in Milan, the hardest hit area by COVID-19, there isn't a very strict lockdown: public transportation is still working and people are still moving around, you're still having dinners and parties in the hotels and you're not wearing masks. We need every citizen to be involved in the fight of COVID-19 and follow this policy.” 

He advised Italians to stop all “economic activities and cut the mobility of people,” and said that people need to simply  stay at home.

Bottom line: The timeline in the U.S. and the path to wholeness are liable to extend even further than anyone knows, unless residents of the U.S. all take precautions seriously and all commercial activity is stopped. Only once the curve is flattened can tourism open up again here.

When Will Sports Return to Normal?

While most events scheduled to be held from now through May have been postponed or cancelled, summer remains an open question – although many leading event owners of summer and late-summer events have published statements, noting they are continuing to evaluate the situation. Even better news comes as some major event owners have announced events for later in the year, including USA Triathlon, which is hosting its Off Road National Championships in September. Oh, and the Official UFO Festival (including its 5K Alien Chase) is still on for this July in Roswell, New Mexico.

Those wondering when air travel can be expected to normalize are probably not likely to get a firm answer any time soon, according to this article from The Points Guy, which shows there are various metrics at work – none of them providing a concrete answer:

“International Air Transport Association (IATA) thinks that travelers will be slow to take back to the skies. IATA warns against the possibility of a “V-shape” recovery, or one in which travelers return in the nearly the same numbers within just a few months. Instead, the organization expects a “significant recovery” to begin in 2021 at the earliest

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