BARCELONA — Hotels in Spain’s favorite tourist destinations are being used to treat patients as they recover from COVID-19.
Hotel Melia Sarrià in central Barcelona is one of eight hotels in the city taking patients straight from the wards of overstretched hospitals, and checking them into luxury suites to keep them from going home and potentially spreading the disease.
“They [have] been discharged from the hospital because from the clinical point of view they are stable patients,” nurse Laura Velasco told VICE News. “In most of the cases they couldn't isolate [themselves] in their homes… because they live with people at risk, or vulnerable, or due to social-economical issues.”
In early April, the peak of infections in Spain, the hotel checked in between 30 and 40 people a week. Alejandro Rodríguez is typical of the type of guest staying in one of the hotel’s 321 rooms. After weeks in intensive care, he was dropped off at the hotel by a public bus being used to transport patients. He’ll likely stay for two weeks, with the tab picked up by Spanish health authorities.
Hotel Melia will continue to offer rooms to coronavirus patients until there is no longer a need. Then it will be cleaned by health authorities and returned to regular business.
Hotel director Enrique Aranda told VICE News costs to keep the hotel open are being met by the Spanish health care system, though its owners considered helping victims a social responsibility at a time of national crisis.
“In the world of hotel hospitality, it's natural of us to want to cheer people up and improve their mood, and make newcomers feel happy,” he said.
“My goal was for patients to go up to their room feeling very different to how they felt getting off that bus.”
Cover: Enrique Aranda is director of Hotel Melià Sarrià in Barcelona. Since the pandemic hit Spain Aranda and his staff have opened the hotel's doors to hundreds of COVID-19 victims. (Photo: VICE News Tonight/VICE TV)