“This is what the pandemic has done to us, we are scared to be around anything that is not sanitised and disinfected,” says Siddhartha Ganguly who recently flew to Visakhapatnam from Mumbai and is confined to a hotel for a seven-day quarantine. “It is a completely different approach that the hotels are taking. The rooms that once smelled of room fresheners now smell of disinfectants and sanitizers. The hotel staff does not enter our rooms and all the essentials are given from an arm’s distance. While the hotel does not provide laundry services we are given clean bedsheets once in every four days which are dropped off at our doors,” says Siddhartha.
The guidelines released by the Andhra Pradesh government mandates all the travellers from high risk zones- Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Gujrat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have to undergo a 14-day quarantine. This includes seven days of institutional quarantine followed by seven days of home quarantine.
To help the authorities deal with the situation, a few hotels in the city have signed up to provide accommodation to travellers who did not wish to quarantine at government institutions. “There are seven hotels in the city that offer over 400 rooms for travellers. This includes one three-star hotel and six four and five-star hotels. Before allowing these hotels to be centres of institutional quarantine, officials from the health department inspected them to ensure there were measures taken to disinfect the premises and proper physical distancing was maintained. They also trained the staff on proper ways to interact with those in quarantine,” says Pavan Kartheek MV, vice president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Andhra Pradesh.
In Visakhapatnam, Daspalla Executive Court has the highest number of guests for paid quarantine. “We have 45 guests who have arrived from domestic and international destinations. We received our first guests on May 19 when the first international rescue operations flight landed in Visakhapatnam. Since May 25 we have people who have arrived here after domestic travel,” says general manager S Prashanth.
The hotel is currently running with 70 % of staff that has been specially trained for this. The hotel provides food to the guests in disposal plates which are placed outside the room on a trolley. “The staff rings the bell to let the guest know the food is outside and leaves. The guests then take the food from the tray. They are expected to discard the used cutlery in bins kept outside the rooms. Twice a day, staff members in personal protective equipment empty these bins. The trash collected from these rooms is disposed of separately,” explains Prashanth. Once the guests check out the rooms are disinfected and kept vacant for three days before the next batch of guests can occupy them. A team of doctors visits these hotels to test the people under quarantine.
All the disinfectants and sanitizers sum up to an additional cost of over six lakh to the management. “Common touch points like door knobs and lift buttons are cleaned immediately after every use. The floors are cleaned with disinfectants every two hours,” says Prashanth.