Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swine flu quarantine hotel

With talk about the "swine flu" at the moment dominating the news, I came across an interesting article this morning about a hotel that has been quarintined because of the virus.

I had a look at the website of the hotel and I can think of worse places to be locked up for a week or so.

Hong Kong's Metropark: the swine flu quarantine hotel
May 5, 2009

Claims of botched business deals and an endless diet of rice -- guests trapped inside the only hotel in the world quarantined because of swine flu are struggling through their seven-day ordeal.

Hong Kong's Metropark hotel has become a bizarre tourist attraction since it was sealed off on Friday following the discovery that a Mexican guest had tested positive for swine flu.

Passers-by grab pictures of the team of health workers coming and going from the four-star hotel in full protective gear -- unusual garb in a district better known for its strip bars.

But behind the police guards and the sealed doors, the monotony of seven days stuck in a hotel room was beginning to wear on some of the 300 guests and staff.

"Once you have had breakfast and washed, it is back to counting the spots and black marks on the wall again ... before twiddling your thumbs," British businessman Leslie Carr told AFP. He was originally due to leave on Saturday.

Carr has filled the time by blogging about his lunch -- "the choice of rice, rice or more rice with a dash of pork, chicken leg" -- and has even posted videos from inside the hotel on video-sharing site YouTube. One shows how he has used an extension cable as a makeshift washing line.

Others showed more signs of frustration.

One Korean businessman, who gave his name as Jimmy, said he was losing out on a huge business contract because of the confinement. "I am signing contract with (business partners). If I cannot go there (on Monday) the whole contract will be cancelled," he told local broadcaster RTHK. "If I tell them I am in here, then they will never ever see me ... I am a businessman. I don't want to die in this lousy hotel."

But despite the frustrations, some guests were enjoying the attention. "Yesterday's routine was to surf the Internet, and take calls from French media for me and Belgian media for the two other occupants of the room," said French businessman Olivier Dolige via email. "The time passes a bit more quickly as a result."

The city authorities have repeatedly thanked the guests for their understanding and said they have tried to make their stay as comfortable as possible. They have also insisted the measure was the best chance of containing the disease after the Mexican stayed there for around seven hours on Thursday night before going to hospital.

The Mexican remains in a stable condition. There have been no other positive cases in the city.
Cleaning services in the hotel has been stepped up and Hong Kong's health secretary has sent each guest a box of chocolates to thank them for their patience, a government spokeswoman said.

As for money, the cost of the room and expenses would be covered by the Hong Kong government. "They would have been hard pushed to get a credit card out of me after this," said Carr.

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