Welcome to Wuhan's Marco Polo hotel, you can't check out or leave, Latest World News - The New Paper

Welcome to Wuhan's Marco Polo hotel, you can't check out or leave

This article is more than 12 months old

Quarantined city's luxury hotel remains open but business is not as usual

WUHAN: The receptionist's seat is empty, the five-star hotel's restaurant is no longer serving customers and staff flee at the sight of any guests.

Welcome to the Marco Polo in Wuhan that is haunted by the spectre of the deadly novel coronavirus, which has infected nearly 6,000 and originated in this central Chinese city.

Wuhan and its 11 million residents – plus anyone who was visiting – are now cut off from the rest of the world, quarantined until the government in Beijing can get a handle on the outbreak.

The luxury Marco Polo is one of the few hotels to have remained open as the crisis erupted, despite fears about human-to-human transmission.

But the minute you step foot in the hotel on the banks of the Yangtze River, it is clear that this is not business as usual.

The lobby desk is unstaffed and the silence is eerie.

The usually bustling, modern hotel is more or less empty, and the staff struggle to combat sheer boredom - when they are not confined to a room for mandatory periods of rest.

To keep active, they engage in group exercises at 10am daily to stay healthy.

"After doing it, we feel much more relaxed," said hotel employee Zhu Juhua.

"This kind of activity can enhance our physical resistance as well as our mental resistance," said employee Xiao Fan.

The threat posed by the virus has prompted some changes in usual behaviour at the high-end hotel.

All guests must wear face masks on the property, and whenever anyone goes out they are looked upon with the utmost suspicion.

Every time someone enters or leaves the hotel, a security guard checks his temperature for any signs of fever.

"It is okay if the temperature is within 37.3," said Xiao, who is in charge of measuring the temperature of staff and guests.

"If it is higher than 37.3, we will take necessary measures."

Adding to the sense of fear, an ambulance took a child suffering from fever out of the hotel earlier this week.

Guests are asked to fill out forms explaining their movements.

The Marco Polo has 356 rooms and is usually 80 per cent full during the busy Chinese New Year period, an employee told AFP on condition of anonymity. But now, only about 20 guests remain.

Most of them are simply stranded because the city is under quarantine.

The restaurant is closed to prevent any spread of the illness - although guests can still order room service.

"When I opened the door, the housekeeper set the tray on the floor and fled as if she had seen a ghost," said one guest from Latin America. - AFP