What happens if a guest in your hotel tests positive?

Emma Beaumont
The Lygon Arms - Getty

Hotels in England have begun to reopen – but not quite as we knew them. Almost without exception, their websites have added tabs detailing extensive coronavirus-prevention measures. Guests might be subject to temperature checks, one-way systems and pre-arrival questionnaires enquiring about travel history – rather than the usual pillow preferences. All of these measures aim to halt transmission of the virus, but what actually happens if a guest does test positive? Here we detail how hotels are dealing with the challenges of operating during this difficult time and what systems they are putting in place to keep guests safe.

How are hotels stopping the spread of the virus?

Of course, reopened hotels are desperately trying to avoid an outbreak on their premises. As well as the strict measures that other hospitality businesses are taking in terms of social distancing and hygiene, many are revolutionising their ways of operating. Marriott, for example, has appointed a dedicated ‘Cleanliness Champion’ in each one of its hotels, who is responsible for managing the intensive cleaning schedule. Along with another hotel giant, Hilton, the company has also invested in cutting-edge electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant. Add to this contactless check-ins, screens in restaurants and spaced-out sun beds, and a very responsible picture emerges.

Some hotels are hoping to neutralise the threat at the door. Sha Wellness Clinic, a medical spa hotel in Alicante, is ensuring it remains a Covid-free bubble by requiring guests to provide proof they are free of the virus issued no longer than 48 hours prior and also take a test on arrival. They have the option of taking an antibody test too and all testing is included in the cost of the stay. Other non-medical resorts across Europe have installed on-site doctors to reassure guests. 

SHA Wellness Clinic

A number of hotels in England, including The Langham in central London and The Bath Priory, are conducting temperature screenings on every arriving guest, with those registering above 38 degrees celsius turned away.

What happens if a guest is suspected of having the virus?

However, even if you take every precaution, it is impossible to guarantee that a guest won’t travel to the hotel after contracting the virus, but before becoming symptomatic. Andrew Stembridge, Executive Director of Iconic Luxury Hotels, whose properties include Cliveden House, Chewton Glen, 11 Cadogan Gardens and the Lygon Arms, is well-prepared for that unhappy scenario: “In the event that a guest falls ill whilst at any of the hotels, we have a dedicated isolation room set aside and this is where we would take guests while waiting for emergency services to arrive” He adds: “This space will be kept ready and will be sanitised between users per the Government guidance.”

Meanwhile, Marriott says that it has “clear protocols in place” should a guest be suspected of having the virus.

”Any affected hotel is required to immediately inform their local authorities and to follow the local authorities’ guidelines on the identification, notification and self-isolation of any other guests or hotel employees who may have been in contact with an infected person.”

They don’t, however, have a blanket policy on shutting hotels or sealing off corridors should a case arise, stating: “We would also follow local authority guidance on any required hotel or floor closures.”

Cliveden House

A plus is that hotels are well set up to use contact tracing systems as, unlike pubs or casual restaurants, they will already have customer details on file. Andrew Stembridge confirms this, saying: “We have the contact details of all guests who stay or dine and will supply these on request to the NHS Test and Trace service, who will in turn make contact with other guests if required.”

What happened at hotels that previously recorded a positive result?

What exactly will happen if cases do crop up at newly reopened UK hotels remains to be seen and, privately, some hoteliers say they have been given little guidance by the Government. It is useful, therefore, to look at hotels that have previously dealt with cases of the virus. 

The first Covid-19 cases recorded in the UK were two guests at the Staycity Aparthotel in York, back in February. At the time, the hotel confirmed that the guests were taken to hospital and an environmental deep clean of their room was completed by an outside company. The hotel did remain open throughout, although those with upcoming stays were able to postpone or cancel trips. Back in February, around 1,000 guests were quickly quarantined at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife, after it recorded Covid-19 cases, though with capacity limits and more understanding of the virus, hopefully such a situation, where guests were left trapped and confused, won’t arise again.

More recently, in the middle of July, a British woman tested positive for the virus at an unamed hotel in Lanzarote. Upon arrival at the hotel, it was her husband who felt unwell and they were both swiftly tested. Although his test later came back negative, she was found to have Covid-19, despite not displaying any symptoms. The damage appears to have been minimised as the hotel's coronavirus protocols meant the couple had limited interactions with staff and other guests. A contact-tracing team tested nine potential contacts and all results came back negative. The woman then went into quarantine, although it is unclear whether this was at the hotel or another facility.

Will guests be able to get a refund if a hotel is closed due to an outbreak?

Many hotels have implemented flexible cancellation policies to deal with the ever-changing conditions that the pandemic has created. Both Hilton and Marriott are allowing guests to cancel or postpone trips at no extra charge up to 24 hours before their stay throughout the summer, which they hope will deal with issues such as potential local lockdowns limiting travel or guests falling ill before they are due to stay. The same policies will apply if a hotel has to shut due to an outbreak at the premises or in its immediate vicinity.