Walt Disney is to lay off 28,000 staff across its US theme parks business as the Covid-19 pandemic stifles demand.

Theme parks will account for most of the layoffs, although Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s retail stores will also be affected.

The company blamed limited attendance at the attractions it reopened and the continued closure of others for the “difficult decision”.

The layoffs apply to “domestic employees” of which about 67% are part-time.

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, wrote to staff to say: “As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy.

“For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company.

“We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.

“Earlier this year, in response to the pandemic, we were forced to close our businesses around the world.

“Few of us could have imagined how significantly the pandemic would impact us – both at work and in our daily lives.

“We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would recover quickly and return to normal.

“Seven months later, we find that has not been the case. And, as a result, today we are now forced to reduce the size of our team across executive, salaried, and hourly roles.”

He added: “As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic.

“While we don’t know when the pandemic will be behind us, we are confident in our resilience, and hope to welcome back Cast Members and employees when we can.

Disney’s theme parks and experiences division suffered a loss of $2 billion as the Covid-19 crisis forced the closure of resorts.

The US company recorded an 85% slump in revenues for the sector to $1 billion in the three months to June 27.

Walt Disney Company lost a total of $4.7 billion in the quarter as the virus forced it to close theme parks and delay film releases and production.

Disney Cruise Line has extended the suspension of sailings until at least December 6.