Guests leave Hong Kong hotel connected to city's first coronavirus infection

A mainland tourist checks out of the Empire Hotel Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Guests have begun checking out of the Hong Kong hotel where the family of the city's first coronavirus patient had been staying.

Worries about a potential epidemic outbreak heightened on Wednesday night after a mainland Chinese tourist from Wuhan was hospitalised and authorities scrambled to trace four other members of his family who had travelled with him to the city before flying to the Philippines.

The family stayed in the Empire Hotel Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui during their brief stopover, before taking Cebu Pacific flight 5J111 to Manila on Wednesday morning.

Dr Constance Chan Hon-yee, the city's director of health, said her department had notified the hotel, which would disinfect areas on the floor the family stayed on.

A staff member cleans the lobby doors at the Empire Hotel. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

The Post discovered at least three customers had already checked out earlier than scheduled, citing worries about the spread of the disease.

A Hong Kong man, who declined to provide his name, said he had planned to check in on Wednesday to stay for several nights, but decided to cancel the booking after he learned the news.

He said he had paid hundreds of dollars for the stay, and the hotel had promised him a refund.

"They [the hotel staff] were quite ambiguous. They said the patient didn't stay here but his family did," he said. "I cancelled the room because I am afraid. I am afraid it will become an infected area. We can't stay here."

An Indian traveller, who also declined to be named, accused the hotel of being irresponsible.

He said he had checked in at 3pm on Wednesday for a three-day stay, but that the staff had not disclosed that the family had stayed there. He said he decided to check out in the evening after he discovered what had happened from friends.

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"I am worried. It's not normal news right?" he said. "They [the hotel staff] did not even tell us this had happened or what floor the guests were staying on."

He said he did not see the hotel stepping up protection measures, and during a Post visit to the hotel on Wednesday evening, three employees and a security guard in the lobby were not wearing face masks.

Guests at the Empire Hotel on Wednesday. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

No sterilisation work was being carried out in the lobby at the time, but a worker came out at about 10pm to clean the glass doors. The staff only started wearing masks later in the evening.

A mainland tourist, surnamed Wang from Sichuan province, said he was unaware the family had stayed at the hotel, and said he might consider checking out early after learning the news from reporters outside.

Wang, who was wearing a mask, said the hygiene at the hotel was fine.

"When I came back this afternoon, staff were carrying out sterilisation and cleansing [in the corridors]," he said.

The Post has contacted the hotel for comment.

This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.