Virus fears keep guests trapped in sunny 'luxurious prison'

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Police officers wearing masks stand in front of the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in La Caleta, in the Canary Island of Tenerife, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. Spanish officials say a tourist hotel on the Canary Island of Tenerife has been placed in quarantine after an Italian doctor staying there tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and Spanish news media says some 1,000 tourists staying at the complex are not allowed to leave. (AP Photo)

MADRID – They signed up for a bit of a beach holiday to break up the winter. Instead, hundreds of holidaymakers, mainly from northern Europe, are set for a two-week lock-down as a result of an outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Holidaymakers in Tenerife, one of the most popular year-round destinations in the Canary Islands, will only be able to have an occasional dip in one of the many pools at the 4-star hotel that has been jokingly termed a “luxurious prison."

There'll be lots of time to watch box-sets or read a series of page-turners. All part of a holiday experience for sure, but this isn't what the guests, a large chunk of whom are from Britain and Belgium, had in mind when they signed up for some winter release in the archipelago that's closer to Africa’s northwestern coast than to Spain.

Close physical contact has been discouraged over contagion fears after the virus that originated in China arrived in the Canary Island’s resort this week via Italy.

“The situation is improving. Today they reopened the restaurant. We can circulate freely, sunbath. But we can’t come out of the hotel,” said Paolo Martelli, an 89-year-old Italian pensioner from Milan who is staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel with his wife, Laura.

“There is overall a feeling like we are in a luxurious prison,” the pensioner said, adding that he worries about missing the plane back home next Saturday. “The worse thing is the uncertainty of not knowing what they are going to do with us.”

Authorities in Tenerife said Wednesday that 106 of the 723 guests at the resort could be released in coming hours because they had no direct contact with the four holidaymakers who tested positive for the COVID-19 disease.

The infected are a doctor from the northern Italian region where a cluster of the virus has led to hundreds of infections, his wife and two more in the party of 10 Italians vacationing together in Tenerife.