Europe

Hundreds of tourists at Tenerife hotel in lockdown after Italian doctor tests positive for coronavirus

People stand on their balconies of the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in the Canary Island of Tenerife, Spain. Source: AAP

A four-star hotel in Tenerife went into lockdown after an Italian doctor on holiday on the island tested positive for the virus on Monday. His wife tested positive on Tuesday.

A large Canary Islands hotel has been locked down for coronavirus tests after a guest and his wife were found to be infected, as Spain also reported its first case of the disease on the mainland.

Catalan regional health authorities said a 36-year old Italian woman, resident in Barcelona, had tested positive on Tuesday after a recent trip to the north of Italy, which is Europe's worst affected country with more than 280 cases.

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Twenty-five people who came into contact with her will be quarantined at home for two weeks, though none of the group currently displays any symptoms, Catalan public health secretary Joan Guix told reporters.

The four-star H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife went into lockdown after an Italian doctor on holiday on the island tested positive for the virus on Monday. His wife tested positive on Tuesday, the regional government said.

The doctor and his wife had been moved to a hospital isolation ward, and other hotel guests and staff would be tested for the virus, health authorities said.

Guests would remain there until the results of a second test on the doctor was known and, depending on that outcome, "appropriate health measures will be taken", a Spanish government spokeswoman said.

The hotel has hundreds of rooms, several restaurants and swimming pools, and is located 50 metres from the beach. Around 1,000 people were inside, local newspaper Diario de Avisos said.

On its Facebook page, the hotel said it planned a carnival party on Thursday evening. Its management declined to comment on Tuesday.

A police officer stands by a barrier in front of the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel where an ambulance is parked in Tenerife, Canary Island, Spain.
A police officer stands by a barrier in front of the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel where an ambulance is parked in Tenerife, Canary Island, Spain.
AAP
Christopher Betts, an English guest from Leicestershire, said over the phone from his room that there were police cars stationed at all entrances.

"We're told we're in quarantine... The hotel seems to be acting normally, except that we cannot go out," he said, adding that guests had been allowed to have breakfast in the restaurant.

He had not been tested for the virus yet and had missed his flight home. Hotel employees were wearing masks, but none was provided for guests, Mr Betts said.

Tens of thousands are expected this week in the Canary Islands for carnival festivities.

Before Monday, Spain had identified two coronavirus cases - a German tourist in La Gomera, another Canary Island, and a British man in Mallorca.

Hand sanitiser empty

"We were told to stay in our rooms however it does not seem like people are following this," a British guest at the hotel told AFP by telephone, without giving his name. 

"Absolutely bizarrely the hotel canteen opened for breakfast. All the staff were wearing face masks and the bottle of hand sanitiser at the entrance was empty," said the man, who had been due to fly home on Tuesday but will now miss his flight. 

Spanish police officers patrol outside the hotel in Tenerife, Canary Island, Spain.
Spanish police officers patrol outside the hotel in Tenerife, Canary Island, Spain.
AAP

Another British tourist who also refused to be identified said hotel guests had received a notice telling them to stay in their rooms.

"We regret to inform you that for health reasons, the hotel has been closed down. You must remain in your rooms until the health authorities say so," said the text in Spanish, English, French, Italian and German, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

Travel firms Tui and Jet2holidays both use the H10 Costa Adeje hotel for package holidays, with Tui having around 200 guests there.

Ashotel, the association of hoteliers on Tenerife, said around 1,000 people were at the hotel and called for calm, saying the establishment was "following all the steps laid out in the protocol".

Two confirmed cases

The scare came as hotels across the Canary Islands were packed with guests who had flown in for the traditional February carnival festivities. 

Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa speaks with journalists before a coronavirus meeting at the Health Ministry in Madrid, Spain.
Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa speaks with journalists before a coronavirus meeting at the Health Ministry in Madrid, Spain.
AAP
Spain is the second-most visited country in the world after France and tourism is crucial for the domestic economy, accounting for around 12 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Spain had so far registered two confirmed cases of coronavirus, both in foreign tourists.

The first case was that of a German man on La Gomera island in the Canaries who tested positive on January 31 followed by a British man who tested positive in Mallorca in the Balearic Islands on February 9. Both recovered.

Seven people in Italy have so far died after catching the virus, making it the hardest-hit country in Europe. In China, where the virus first appeared, the virus has killed more than 2,600 people.

Italy coronavirus outbreak spreads south

Italy's European neighbours have pledged to keep borders open despite the new coronavirus spreading down the country to Tuscany and Sicily and a surge in the number of infected people.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blamed poor management in a hospital in the country's north for the outbreak, with the death toll in Italy rising to 10 and infections to 322, the largest number of people infected in Europe.

People with mask at Via Fauch market in Milan, Italy on February 25, 2020. Photo by IPA/ABACAPRESS.COM.
People with mask at Via Fauch market in Milan, Italy.
AAP

All 10 of those who have died so far in Italy were either elderly or had pre-existing medical conditions.

But health ministers from Italy's neighbours - meeting in Rome along with the EU's health commissioner - pledged to keep the frontiers open Tuesday. They said closing borders would be a "disproportionate and ineffective" measure, even as numbers of infections continue to rise. 

"We're talking about a virus that doesn't respect borders," Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza said.

His Germany counterpart, Jens Spahn, who was also at the Rome meeting, said they were "taking the situation very, very seriously.

"The coronavirus has reached Europe for the first time in a situation where we don't understand every chain of infection and they can't be connected directly to China.

"This means we have a new situation to deal with. I have said it could get worse before it gets better and this assessment still stands," he added.

Tuscany reported its first two cases, including one in the tourist destination of Florence, while three emerged in Sicily - including a husband and wife from the worst-hit Lombardy region, where 240 people have tested positive.

The Liguria region, known as the Italian Riviera, also reported its first case.

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