At Spanish hotel under coronavirus lockdown, meals with masks

Elian Peltier and Raphael Minder, The New York Times

Posted at Feb 27 2020 08:41 AM

An employee wears a protective mask as he talks with guests inside a hotel under lockdown after a coronavirus case was identified in Adeje, in the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, Spain, February 25, 2020. Christopher Betts via Reuters

TENERIFE, Spain — At a tourist resort on a Spanish island where hundreds of hotel guests remained on lockdown Wednesday to contain the spread of the coronavirus, some had breakfast and lunch while wearing masks, then quickly repaired to their rooms.

A few guests floated around wearing masks in virtually empty corridors and common areas, videos from inside the hotel, the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel on Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, showed.

“There’s almost no one,” said Silke Bal, 17, a guest from Belgium, as she walked around the hotel. “Everything is closed.”

The lockdown remained firmly in place for most guests as Spanish authorities announced Wednesday that three more people had tested positive for the coronavirus and officials in Europe scrambled to contain an outbreak that had spread to five nations on the Continent. France on Wednesday reported its second death from the coronavirus.

For the first time, more new cases have been reported outside China than inside, according to the World Health Organization’s chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The number of new cases reported in China on Tuesday was 411; elsewhere, the total was 427. The number of cases globally has now reached 80,980, and nearly 3,000 of those have died.

The European Union’s top official for communicable diseases also warned that the Continent needed to prepare for a large-scale pandemic as Italy struggled to bring a cluster of cases in the north of the country under control.

Dr. Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said at a news conference in Rome on Wednesday, “We will likely see a similar situation in other countries in Europe.”

The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said she had asked all member countries to send her details about their pandemic preparedness, including how they planned to trace people who had been in contact with someone infected.

“We have requested member states to review their pandemic plans as well as health care capabilities,” Kyriakides said in Rome on Wednesday, “including capacity for diagnosing, laboratory testing and procedures for contact tracing.”

That European push came as Spanish officials announced Wednesday that one person each in Madrid, Catalonia and Seville had tested positive for the virus, bringing the country’s total to 12.

The first two people had recently arrived from Italy, which has seen an eruption of the most cases in Europe: more than 300. Italy’s Lombardy region has been hit especially hard by the outbreak. Cases that appear to be connected to Lombardy have also been reported in France, Austria, Croatia and Switzerland.

A man in his 60s also tested positive in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia and was placed in isolation. But he had not recently visited Italy, and authorities were trying to establish if he might have been infected by somebody who had recently traveled outside Spain.

Enrique Ruíz Escudero, an official with the regional government of Madrid, the Spanish capital, said two young people who had recently been to Italy had been transferred to hospitals and placed in isolation. Officials described their condition as “good.”

All of this week’s cases in Spain still had to be confirmed by a second round of testing, which will be done in Spain’s national center of microbiology.

Across Europe, in addition to the people at the hotel in the Canary Islands, guests at hotels in Austria and France were placed in lockdown this week after others either tested positive for the virus or were suspected of having it.

On Wednesday, there were two types of visitors in the coastal town of Adeje, in southwest Tenerife: those who remained essentially sealed in their hotel because of the coronavirus and those staying elsewhere, free to wander around and wondering how those under lockdown were doing.

“How are they getting breakfast in there?” asked Katrien Van Gele, a visitor from Belgium.

Hundreds of vacationers at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel were ordered not to leave the building after the illness was diagnosed in an Italian doctor and his partner. Authorities sought to trace everyone who had come in contact with the doctor at the resort.

However, 106 guests who had arrived at the hotel after the Italian doctor was isolated were preparing to leave later Wednesday after receiving final clearance from authorities.

On Wednesday morning, while guests at the H10 remained restricted in their movements and the hotel said on its website that it would remain “temporarily closed for the next few days,” refrigerated food trucks and workers were sent to provide supplies to the hotel at midday, while guests there said they could leave their rooms and wander around the resort, including the swimming pool.

Communication within the hotel remained scant among guests. Some, like Laura Walter, a 24-year-old tourist from Germany, said she had not been let out of her room Wednesday morning. “We have been waiting for a call from the reception,” Walter said in a message.

In an interview with the Spanish television channel Antena 3, a guest at the hotel showed the leftovers of the salami and cheese sandwiches and the fruit that had been delivered to the room he is sharing with his wife, as well as a supply of water and a set of clean sheets.

“I guess it means nobody is going to be cleaning our room all of this time,” the man said.

Another guest said, “We are seeing the beach from the balcony, but without being able to enjoy it.”

The mayor of Adeje, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, tried to reassure locals in front of the hotel Wednesday, saying that the situation inside was complicated.

“We have to control a virus that isn’t totally deadly,” he said.

Rodríguez Fraga said there were 25 nationalities among the hundreds of guests in the hotel and that the impact on the local tourism industry could be heavy. “We are a vulnerable territory,” he said. “But it’s not a catastrophe; it’s not the end of the world.”

Initially, the coronavirus reached Spanish islands that are major tourism hubs, including Tenerife. But since Tuesday, the virus has spread to the mainland, including the two largest cities in Spain, Madrid and Barcelona.

Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s coordination center for health alerts and emergencies, said at a news conference Wednesday that all additional cases identified in the country this week had been in “controlled situations” and had their origins traced to Italy.

For now, he said, Spain did not need additional measures to control the coronavirus. Simón said, “Spain does not recommend checkpoints at airports,” which he argued had limited efficacy. He also warned that such checkpoints could have the counterproductive effect of “relaxing” the internal monitoring of the disease.

“The situation in Spain has not changed significantly,” he said. “We have more volume, but the risk of transmission for the population hasn’t changed.”

Outside the H10 Costa Adeje, most visitors said they remained unconcerned about the outbreak but would avoid the touristy areas in the southern part of Tenerife Island.

“As long as those inside the hotel remain there for now, I think we’re safe,” said Berns Drewitz, a visitor from Germany.

Others, like John, a 61-year-old visitor from Ireland who declined to give his surname, said he and his wife would shorten their vacation and would fly back home Friday instead of Sunday.

“We don’t want to be blocked here for two or three more weeks,” he said.

But Van Gele, the visitor from Belgium, said she wouldn’t mind being trapped on the island. “More vacation is always welcome,” she said. “Let’s just not panic.”


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