Coronavirus: panic buying at supermarkets, 100s of flights to Italy canceled, but Bucharest hotels relaxed about virus

Radisson Blu, Bucharest
Radisson Blu, Bucharest

Coronavirus panic sparked a run on Romanian supermarkets in this week. Wizz Air, the biggest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe announced it’s canceling more than 500 flights from Romania, Hungary and Poland to Italy in March over a drop in demand for tickets.

But if tourists are staying away from Italy, where 650 people have been infected with coronavirus and 17 people have died from the respiratory virus, upmarket hotels in the Romanian capital seem relaxed about the prospect of coronavirus being transmitted from Italian tourists.

Staff at hotels in Bucharest said Romanian authorities were responsible for vetting visitors for the virus. Tourists from Italy are welcome, for the moment at least.

Checks have been put in place at border points. This week the Bucharest National Airports Company (CNAB) said passengers arriving on the Henri Coanda Airport, from Milan, Bergamo, Treviso and Turin, which are impacted by the virus, will enter the country a special gate.

They are required to fill in a questionnaire, assisted by staff trained to deal with emergency situations.

Health ministry official Horatiu Moldovan says that people arriving from Italian towns that are under a lockdown will be quarantined for two weeks, in specially set up locations. The health and interior ministries agreed on the towns and the list has been distributed to border crossings.

Potentially, hotels are a hotbed for COVID-19. Tablecloths, elevator buttons, tables, chairs and public bathrooms can be sources of infection.

MedicalNews says the virus is spread through coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth which can disperse droplets into the air, touching or shaking hands with a person who has the virus, and making contact with a surface or object that has the virus and then touching the nose, eyes, or mouth.

The receptionist at the Radisson Blu on Calea Victoriei on Thursday said visitors from the hard-hit Lombardia region of Italy are welcome: “There is no way we can ban someone, as long as they get through airport checks.”

 “There isn’t a state of emergency,” she said adding “If they come with their own transport….”

Federico Gonzalez, the CEO of Radisson Hospitality AB, the European arm of the Radisson Hotel Group, on Feb. 25, sought to downplay the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the company.

“Concerning the potential hit from the coronavirus, so far the negative impact is considered negligible due to the limited impact of Chinese and Asian travelers on our client base,” Gonzalez said.

The Intercontinental lobby was full of people taking shelter from the rain and drinking coffee Thursday lunchtime. The crew of a European airline was checking in as I stood in line. The friendly receptionist told me: “As long as people manage to pass border controls and are healthy, there’s no problem.”

“So far, we haven’t turned away anyone” she added.

Marriot has a mobile hand sanitizer in the reception area. Asked whether people from Milan could stay at the hotel, a receptionist said: “We don’t have any indications,” that they can’t.

At the Athenee Palace Hilton, a lunchtime reception was just ending. A trio of young women wearing fedora hats were checking in. Echoing what other hotels said, the receptionist told me. “There are checks at airports; people traveling to Romania should check ministry websites about restrictions. Not Facebook.”

A receptionist at the boutique Mercure Hotel in Amzei Market, asked her supervisor about the situation.

Hotel Mercure, Bucharest
Hotel Mercure, Bucharest

“At the moment, there are no restrictions,” he said. “But it’s an uncertain situation, and things could change in a few hours, so tourists should check back.”

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