Britons in Tenerife fear catching coronavirus while trapped in hotel

British tourists quarantined in a Tenerife hotel where four former guests tested positive for coronavirus say they are desperate to return to the UK to avoid contracting the disease.

They fear that being locked in the four-star hotel they will face the same outcome as passengers onboard the Diamond Princess ship, where the virus spread as the boat remained quarantined off Yokohama.

A lockdown was imposed on the 700 guests at the Costa Adeje Palace in La Caleta after an Italian doctor, who had stayed at the hotel, was confirmed to have caught the virus on Monday night.

He is being treated in isolation in hospital along with his wife and two other Italians in his travel group, who have since also tested positive.

Harley Mitford, a student who checked into the hotel with his sister and stepfather on Monday, said the quarantine was putting them at risk of contracting the disease. Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “The Italian guy who was infected had left before we came, so if they let us go, we couldn’t have come into contact with him.

“If we’re kept in we’re more likely to come into contact with people who came into contact with him. It’s counterintuitive, and it’s exactly what happened on the cruise ship.”

The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers
  • Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Despite a surge in sales of face masks in the aftermath of the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak, experts are divided over whether they can prevent transmission and infection. There is some evidence to suggest that masks can help prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions, given the large number of times people touch their faces. The consensus appears to be that wearing a mask can limit – but not eliminate – the risks, provided they are used correctly.

Justin McCurry

There is a heavy police presence around the hotel. Mitford, who is studying history at Buckingham University, said: “If it was possible to leave at all, people would try and make a break for it. There’s a real fear around the virus.”

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The health secretary, Matt Hancock, told the Commons on Wednesday that the Foreign Office had been in touch with the estimated 200 British guests quarantined in Tenerife. But Mitford said his family had had no contact with the Foreign Office.

He said: “I’m slightly reassured that these conversations with the Foreign Office are apparently happening, but we’re not a part of them. It’s not encouraging that we’re not getting any information firsthand.”

He added: “If we haven’t heard from them by tomorrow, we’re going to try and get them to do something. It’s difficult to know how to go about it, but we’ll give it a go.”

His fellow guest Nigel Scotland also said he had not been contacted by UK officials.

He said: “We haven’t heard anything. Our great hope would be to be flown home quickly, because we probably have to do another 14 days of self-isolation when we get back.”

The only information guests have received has come in the form of notes slipped under the door by hotel staff, usually comprising a couple of lines of text reminding guests to stay indoors.

Harley’s sister, Rosie Mitford, said: “We want to come back home now.” Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, she said: “We just don’t see the point of staying here for two weeks when none of us have symptoms and then isolating when we get back.”

Guests at the hotel have been given face masks, rubber gloves and a thermometer to test their temperatures. They have been urged to stay in their rooms but some have chosen to ignore this, according to another British tourist at the hotel. Steve Forrester said: “There’s quite a lot of people wandering around the ground. The official word is stay in your room, but it’s not really being enforced.”

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He told the BBC: “Ideally we would go home on Saturday and be allowed out of our room. It would be bad enough if you were kept within the hotel grounds but being confined to your room is pretty boring.”

Forrester added: “I’ve heard that doctors will be coming tonight to check us over, and then we see where we go from there.”



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