The Disneyland Paris theme park opened to visitors on Thursday after being shuttered for nearly eight months during the pandemic, but safety measures were in force to stop the virus spreading.

While cast members dressed as favourite Disney characters – among them Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy – were on hand as usual for selfies with visitors, they were keeping their distance.

According to the park’s revised rules, “close interactions, including hugs, will be temporarily suspended.” Visitors over the age of six are also required to wear masks.

Nevertheless, visitors streaming through the gates at opening time were ecstatic to be there. Émeline N’Zalakanda, a 22-year-old student, visited several times a week before the COVID-19 lockdown and has been missing the experience.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting for this all my life. It’s been months and months,” she said. “It’s just amazing. There’s so much emotion, seeing all these people again.”

Inside the park, which is about 40 km (25 miles) east of Paris, the twirling teacups ride was in action once again and people were thronging around Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

Natacha Rafalski, CEO of Disneyland Paris, said the reopening was a watershed moment for the whole tourism and hospitality sector in France as it emerges from the pandemic.

“We’ve all waited impatiently for this moment,” she said. “Restaurants, hotels, theme parks, all hospitality venues, are essential to the life of the French people.”

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood)

This article was written by Noemie Olive and Lea Guedj from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Photo Credit: A man with a mask poses for a selfie with Boba Fett at Disneyland Paris Disneyland Paris