March 17, 2020 / 11:37 AM / 22 days ago

Holidaymakers isolated at Portuguese hotel after guest tests positive for coronavirus

LISBON (Reuters) - Standing on their balconies, holidaymakers at a hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira patiently waited for news after a fellow guest tested positive for the coronavirus and they were put in isolation.

The guest, a Dutch woman, arrived last Thursday and was staying at the Quinta do Sol hotel in Funchal, the largest city in Madeira.

“We all need to be aware of how serious this situation is in the face of the great challenge that lies ahead,” the president of Madeira’s regional government Miguel Albuquerque told a news conference.

Though this is the first coronavirus case on the Atlantic Ocean island, Portugal already has 448 confirmed cases and reported its first death related to the outbreak on Monday.

A spokesperson for Brazil’s Enotel Group, which owns Quinta do Sol, said the hotel had about 120 guests. Without providing further details, the hotel told Reuters they were now preparing to deliver food to guests’ rooms.

Reuters images and videos showed police officers outside the building, and some guests standing or sitting on their hotel balconies.

The spokesperson said the Dutch woman was part of a larger group and had no symptoms on arrival last week.

The hotel said the “situation is under control” but guests and staff can no longer enter or leave the building. It is not clear when the guests will be allowed to leave.

“In this new phase, the (regional) government will take all measures to contain this epidemic in Madeira,” Albuquerque said, adding they will inform embassies of the “mandatory need” to repatriate their citizens who remain on the island.

The regional government announced on Saturday that all passengers arriving on Madeira had to be put in compulsory quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Portugal suspended on Monday all passenger air and rail traffic with hard-hit Spain until April 15. Madeira’s regional government wants Lisbon to close borders to all foreigners.

The travel restrictions between Portugal and Spain will prevent tourism but will not affect the free movement of goods

The Portuguese government on Friday declared a “state of alert” until April 9 to combat the coronavirus.

Classes across the education system have been suspended, cruise ships are no longer allowed to disembark foreign passengers, night clubs have shut and there are capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls, restaurants and terraces.

On Tuesday afternoon, the northern Portuguese municipality of Ovar - home to more than 50,000 people - was the first area in the country to declare a state of public calamity.

From Wednesday until April 2, all shops and non-essential services will be shut and there will be restrictions to people’s movements, said the municipality’s mayor Salvador Malheiro.

Most of Portugal’s confirmed coronavirus cases are concentrated in the country’s northern and central regions.

Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Sergio Goncalves, Editing by Andrei Khalip, Angus MacSwan and Alexandra Hudson

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