By Nathan Allen
TENERIFE, Spain (Reuters) – Some 130 guests were cleared on Thursday to leave a Tenerife hotel placed on lockdown after four cases of the coronavirus were detected there, but there were no signs that would happen soon while authorities scrambled to address the situation.
On the third day of the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel’s lockdown, only the widespread presence of protective masks gave a glimpse of how unreal life has become for 700-plus tourists inside the compound.
A Canary Islands health department spokeswoman said the organisation of the guests’ departure was a police matter.
A national police spokesman in Tenerife did not respond to a request for comment, while the hotel’s director said the decision was in the hands of health authorities.
A video from inside the hotel showed guests sunbathing by one of the swimming pools and others serving themselves at a restaurant buffet. Some, but not all, wore masks, lowering them while eating.
Lara Pennington from Manchester, staying at the hotel with her children and elderly inlaws, said basic safety measures such as wearing masks and washing hands regularly were being ignored.
“There are numerous people who are not adhering to the protocol and therefore the environment outside of our rooms still remains very unsafe for us. We have no intention of leaving our rooms,” she said.
Carlota, a volunteer nurse about to enter the hotel, told Reuters: “What we are really afraid of is that other people could be infected. Supposedly in healthy people it is not a deadly virus. We should not have any problem.”
A spokesman for the regional government said none of the remaining guests presented any symptoms and they might be cleared before the end of a 14-day isolation period imposed on Wednesday.
“A decision has been made that frees the hotel from the presence of 130 people,” he said in televised comments.
Other guests appeared more concerned about being stuck on the hotel grounds.
“Everything is quite surreal, 95% of the situation remains normal here but we feel encapsulated,” Christopher Betts, from Leicestershire in England, told Reuters by telephone. “We kill the time by walking around, reading a bit, sitting by the pool.”
The hotel, which has said it is cooperating with authorities, did not respond to requests for comment, including on who would ultimately pay for the forced extended vacation.
European holiday company TUI <TUIGn.DE> had around 200 customers of different nationalities at the hotel, 52 of which were from Britain, a spokesman said.
TUI’s customers would neither have to pay for their extended stay nor for their return flights’ fees, he added.
The holidaymakers’ experiences of adjusting to confinement were similar to those who spent two weeks in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruiseliner off Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Just like for some of those passengers, the view from balcony has become their window on the world, which also appeared less lively.
Most shops nearby shut, as the guests who make up the bulk of their customers were unable to leave the hotel to visit.
The coronavirus can spread via droplets in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes out, and these can also contaminate surfaces such as door handles and railings.
Spain’s total number of active coronavirus cases rose to 25 on Thursday from 11, with the bulk of them linked to Italy, hit by Europe’s worst outbreak, with over 500 cases and 17 deaths.
The four infected people in the hotel were all Italians.
At the shops nearby, some feared a major financial impact.
Maria, 48, who works at a small jewellery, said the hotel’s lockdown could cost the shop up to 15,000 euros. “I’m afraid that after this tourists would not want to come back. Look at what has happened in Italy,” she said.
(Additional reporting Paola Luelmo, Emma Pinedo and Joan Faus in Madrid, and Sarah Young in London; Writing by Andrei Khalip and Joan Faus; editing by John Stonestreet and Grant McCool)