The costs of hotel quarantine

As part of the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 governments around the world have insisted on quarantining COVID-19 positive patients and those returning from overseas – usually for 14 or 21 days, depending on the country and jurisdiction.

Myanmar is no different. Since the first cases were detected in March infected patients and international travellers were required to undergo mandatory quarantine.

Those who tested positive to COVID-19 were put under medical watch at designated places like hospitals and quarantine centers, whilst returning travellers had the option of quarantining at home or a hotel.

Quarantine rules were enacted by the Ministry of Health and Sports with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus and easing the burden on health care workers and facilities. Despite the benefits to these self-isolation measures, quarantine comes at a cost – to the facilities and the patients themselves as well as to the general economy.

There are more than 20 hotels designated for quarantine in Yangon, and most of those under watch are oversees returnees, local intrastate travellers and healthcare workers. Hotel quarantines costs an average of K40,000 per day, with food priced at an additional K10,000.

Those wanting to quarantine with their family or partner will be expected to pay K85,000 per day. Some hotels charge a fixed price of K25,000, with an extra K10,000 covering the cost of food.

Whilst the service, food and facilities vary, many people forced to self-isolate at a hotel are not always happy about footing the bill. Unlike quarantine facilities, where the costs are met by the government, hotel guests are required to pay themselves.

Nant Kyar Phyu underwent an 11-day quarantine period at the Hotel Yangon from 13 to 24 August after returning home from overseas, and was later transferred to the Hlaing Quarantine Center when testing positive. As her condition was not serious, she was allowed to self-isolate with her sister – who would keep her company.

The total cost was K75,000 per day, which included food.

Despite the cost, she was less than happy with her experience.

Even though she explained her sister would accompany her, the hotel could only provide a room with a double bed, rather than two singles – as she requested.

From the booking I made it clear that we needed two single beds, and they agreed. But when we got there, we had to make do with one double bed,” Nant Kyar Phyu explained. “I felt really sorry for my sister.”

But the bed itself wasn’t the only problem. “Then they handed us the bed sheets and blankets, saying the other rooms were fully booked,” she said.

Food at the hotel was also an issue for Nant Kyar Phyu and her sister. “The hotel only served Chinese food, and many people complained that they couldn’t eat the same meals every day,” the sisters explained. Some guests chose to order home delivery meals instead of eating the hotel food.

The hotel manager answers a phone call inside a passenger ship turned into a quarantine center in Manila, Philippines, 13 April 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE / Mark R.

After suffering a bought of diarrhea, Nant Kyar Phyu recovered with the help of the hotel medics – who she said were super responsive during her time under quarantine.

When her 11-day self-isolation at the hotel ended, she moved to a quarantine facility. Things there were only marginally better, though.

The plumbing needed fixing due to a broken pipe, and phone calls to reception would always get misplaced, Nant Kyar Phyu said.

“There were many people in just one building, and they all had to reach the same phone extension for health matters and general services. I have to redial four or five times to get a call. But the meals are much better than they are at the hotel,” she said.

Ma Zar Zar Htet returned home to Myanmar from the US, and also underwent her quarantine at a hotel. She stayed at the City Hotel for 21 days, at a cost of K40,000
per day (including meals).

Upon her arrival Ma Zar Zar Htet said she was skeptical about staff at the airport, noting that travellers going to hotels were treated differently than those selected for quarantine centers. Only affluent people were seen to chose hotel quarantines, even though she had no choice in the actual hotel, she said.

She was also less than impressed with her hotel experience.

“The room wasn’t clean, there were wet towels in the bathroom and the blankets and bedspread had mold on it,” Ma Zar Zar Htet explained

“At first, I thought the housekeeping had just forgotten to clean the room in between guests. But I realised the hotel doesn’t even care about housekeeping, as they only gave me old towels or ones with yellow stains. So, I had to get the toiletries sent from my house. I don’t think the housekeeping service were following the COVID-19 regulations properly, as I had to do everything myself,” she said.

Even the healthcare staff at hotel didn’t spend much time with the guests, and just stayed out of everything, she said.

“I felt really sorry for the hotel staff. As many people had these kinds of problems, they just had to endure the complaints and get creative with what they had. If the hotel is understaffed, they shouldn’t accept more guests for quarantine,” she said.

Her advice to people choosing a hotel to quarantine in is to keep instant noodles and other snacks on hand. Although it’s easy to get in touch with family later, you should prepare for not having proper food for a few days.

Ma Lu Lu, who came back to Yangon in late September after finishing her degree in the UK, said her stay cost K 40,000 per day for a week in quarantine at the Grand Garden Hotel.

She had a more pleasurable hotel experience as the room was quiet, spacious and staff were careful with sanitation and keeping the room clean.

“It is safer in hotel quarantine if you can afford it. You can also relax there,” she said.

The Yangon Airport Hotel near Seven-and-a-Half-Mile provide quarantine rooms for healthcare staff only, according to hotel staff Ko Saw.

“We provide doctors and nurses at the hotel. They are our saviors. Nearly all the people who stayed at our hotel say the accommodation is better than their own home, and thank us for taking care of them,” he said.

A Red Cross volunteer carries lunch boxes for the people at a quarantine facility center in Yangon, Myanmar, 04 October 2020. EPA-EFE / Nyein Chan Naing.

Hotels differ, and so do the types of guests they attract. Guests also have differing demands.
Since March the City Golf Resort Hotel provided hotel quarantine services for around 250 guests. “Guests make various requests. Most request liquor, which we’re not allowed to serve them given the quarantine rules,” said Ko Moe Kyaw Thu, and official at the hotel.

For prevention, the hotel staff wear PPE, including medical gloves and masks. Disinfectant sprays are also provided, and guests can order via an online payment system to reduce physical contact, he said.

Unfortunately, many of the younger hotel staff, including Ko Moe Kyaw Thu, have been infected with COVID-19. “We need to work to survive, even though we caught the virus before. Actually, it is not strange. Everyone in Yangon may be infected if they actually get tested,” he said.

Hotel operation costs are often outweighed by income from the quarantine fees, with some hotels struggling to meeting the costs for staff meals. But hotels want to help the government and support the returning travellers the best they can, said Ko Moe Kyaw Thu.

“It is very risky. We don’t know who is infected with the virus. But we provide these services to satisfy our guests during this difficult time,” he said.

No one knows when COVID-19 ends, or the quarantine and self-isolation rules will ease, but certainly the mutual respect and trust among hotels and guests will need to improve if these programs continue.

Source : Myanmar Times

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