5-star quarantine: Luxury accommodations become self-isolation facilities
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Governments around the world have implemented drastic measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. A number of countries, including the United States, have closed their borders to foreigners — some, like Australia and Singapore, have even gone so far as to bar transiting passengers from entering their airports. And some countries, like Saudi Arabia, have temporarily suspended all international flights.
Luxury hotels and budget motels alike have lost the majority of their bookings overnight, even as travelers have been ordered into mandatory quarantine, some of them when they return home from overseas and some in transit or as they arrive at vacation destinations. Dozens of governments have mandated self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days upon arrival.
Hawaii requires all incoming travelers, including state residents, to remain in quarantine for 14 days, which can be in an Airbnb or hotel room. Most people in shared buildings such as hotels, however, are barred from using public spaces such as the dining rooms, pools or workout facilities.
Here’s how some of the world’s nicest accommodations have been repurposed for coronavirus quarantines.
“Excuse me, miss, you can’t go home. You’ll have to follow us and get on this bus.”
As a general rule, this isn’t the type of personal greeting one wants to hear in the airport after a 19-hour long-haul international flight. But that’s exactly what happened to Los Angeles-based songwriter Veronica McCluskey Monday when she landed in Brisbane, Australia, where her elderly father lives.
McCluskey told TPG that, mere hours before her flight departed, the Australian government amended its restrictions yet again to require all incoming travelers complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine in government-funded facilities. “The information was very unclear,” McCluskey said. “We weren’t told where we were going.”
Upon arriving in Brisbane, McCluskey told TPG that “there were people with masks and biosecurity hazard gear everywhere.” After clearing customs and immigration, she boarded a bus with her fellow travelers, “still with no idea where we were going.” McCluskey said that there were rumors amongst fellow travelers that the government would use detention centers or RV parks to house incoming travelers in whatever accommodations they could find.
Thus, McCluskey was pleasantly surprised when the bus pulled up in front of the Rydges Hotel South Bank, where the hotel upgraded her to a junior suite. “I could stay here for two weeks, four weeks, six months: however long the government wants to pay for me to stay here,” McCluskey joked in her Instagram stories.
“All of my food is covered here as well,” she told TPG. “I’m going to live it up and hopefully not eat too much!”
In Saudi Arabia, returning citizens are not allowed to self-isolate at home. Instead, they are taken directly from the airport to dedicated hotels in order to keep their communities safe. But isolation isn’t all that bad: The Saudi government has treated its quarantined citizens to luxury accommodations.
The first 300 citizens to enter Saudi quarantine were hosted in a five-star hotel for two weeks; other travelers have been given similar VIP treatment. None of the hotels have been named in the news, but a Facebook video from Afrene Bege shows quarantine footage from Le Park Concord in Arar, a city in northern Saudi Arabia.
The video depicts a gleaming marble lobby with a worker dressed in protective gear manning a health check-up booth, as well as plastic-wrapped trays of fresh fruit and other individually packaged refreshments being delivered to quarantined guests by employees wearing face masks. (TPG reached out to Le Park Concord for confirmation, but had not heard back as of publication time.)
More than 5,800 people have been quarantined in hotels across Jordan after the country declared a state of emergency in mid-March and imposed a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation for all incoming travelers on March 16. Nearly three dozen hotels have been repurposed for quarantine facilities, including 23 four- and five-star hotels in Amman as well as resorts by the Dead Sea, according to Middle East Eye.
The travelers bunking by the Dead Sea enjoy stunning views but are not permitted to leave their rooms. Occasionally, they communicate with each other from the balconies.
Saad Jaber, Jordan’s Minister of Health, told Jordan TV that daily costs for each person in quarantine averaged between $169 and $253 per day, including the expese of ensuring that hotel staff have adequate supplies as well as protective medical gear. In comparison, Jordanian officials said, treating the average coronavirus patient costs around $1,690 per day.
The government has asked quarantined travelers to self-isolate for an additional 14 days upon their release out of an abundance of caution.
This cluster of islands is synonymous with bucket-list luxury and impeccably attentive service, so the country’s quick response to COVID-19 containment is unsurprising. As of late March, the Republic of Maldives has 1,158 rooms (2,288 beds) dedicated to quarantined visitors across 10 resort locations, according to the minister of tourism.
One of those locations is a repurposed resort on the island of Villivaru, in the Kaafu Atoll, about 15 miles north of the capital city of Malé. The property was a popular luxury resort in the 1980s and 1990s, but it has been abandoned for years. After the government implemented quarantine measures in mid-March, a crew of 50 workers set to work getting the property ready, completing renovations in a scant 10 days.
Each of the quarantine facility’s 30 air-conditioned rooms comes with a flat-screen TV and fully stocked minibar, according to the South China Morning Post. The resort stay also includes free medical care as well as three room service meals a day. But no visitors are allowed and, presumably, guests can’t leave their rooms.
In anticipation of the impact of rising numbers of coronavirus cases, the city of San Francisco issued a request for proposals from local hotels willing to house COVID-19 front-line workers, first responders, overflow hospital patients and SRO occupants who are exposed to the virus.
The Palace Hotel, a Marriott Category 7 hotel from the Luxury Collection and the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel are two of the many hotels that have offered “quarantine rooms” in a bid for the city’s business. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that more than 30 hotels responded with proposals after City Hall requested the short-term housing.
The city had identified 84 hotels that would meet its needs, based on ADA compliance and robust ventilation systems that would prevent further spread of disease. The city will pay $213 per day for isolation rooms for sick patients, which would include three daily meals delivered directly to the room to minimize spread of disease.
Meanwhile, the city would pay $164 per night for rooms for health care workers and first responders, which would not include meals. Finally, the city would pay $79 per day to hold empty rooms that aren’t in current use, according to the Chronicle.
Cruise ships with no cases of coronavirus
As horror stories spread of cruise ships with coronavirus aboard, a number of destinations quickly closed their ports to cruise ships, leaving thousands of travelers unavailable to go ashore. However, not every cruise ship turned into a floating hospital; some had no cases of coronavirus on board.
The 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel was forced to modify its original 23-day Australia and French Polynesia itinerary after the ship was turned away at various ports because of coronavirus concerns. Everyone on board was tested for COVID-19 as a precaution and all tests came back negative.
As a result, one passenger told TPG that “we are now actually the safest self-contained area in the whole world.” The traveler noted that the ship had yet to run out of toilet paper and passengers were still allowed to access the gym and other facilities because of the low risk of coronavirus infection.
The Norwegian Jewel finally docked in Honolulu on March 23 and passengers were escorted directly from the ship to the airport to board chartered flights back to Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Vancouver and Frankfurt.
Passengers aboard the similarly stranded Holland America’s Maasdam also tried to maintain a stoic optimism.
“If our destiny is to stay on the ship, we will make the best of it!” Tamara Koperda of Atlanta told The Points Guy’s senior cruise and travel reporter, Gene Sloan. “We are a healthy ship, for which we are most grateful,” Koperda said. “We had a guest and staff talent show last night that was truly funny. There were poems about being out of lettuce but please don’t run out of booze.”
Featured photo by Getty Images from June 2019.
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