U.K. in Talks With Resorts and Hotels for Emergency Virus Housing

The U.K. is in talks with vacation parks and hotels across the country to house hospital staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bourne Leisure, one of Britain’s largest holiday operators, is speaking with the government to work out how to deploy its resorts to protect those most at risk from the virus. The upscale Champneys Health Resorts also said it had been contacted by the government about using its facilities.

The discussions come as Boris Johnson’s government weighs tougher action to fight the spread of the coronavirus in London. Measures under consideration include ordering bars, restaurants and shops to close and taking a harder line to ensure more people work from home. But the moves won’t see the capital cut off from the rest of the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

“If we go into lockdown, they’re more than welcome to have the resorts,” said Alan Whiteley, Champney’s chief executive officer. “I feel like we’re in World War II, all huddled around the radio, waiting for the King or Queen to speak on what action to take next.”

Jack Irvine, a spokesman for Bourne Leisure, said the company was approached by officials over the weekend. He said they want to help in any way they can, but their locations might not be where the government needs help.

“We have offered our establishments to the government and they’re looking into how we can help,” Irvine said.

Bourne Leisure, with 54 sites, owns some of Britain’s most popular resorts, including Butlin’s, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels. Butlin’s has already been used in national emergencies. Its Skegness resort on England’s east coast was used as a naval training camp during World War II.

Hotels could also be used to house those most at risk of catching the virus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions. The possibility of hotels being turned into temporary hospitals is also on the cards.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio Friday that “the offers of hotels has been absolutely fantastic.”

“Quite a lot is needed to be done to a hotel to turn it into an effective hospital bed, but nevertheless it’s a really good starting point,” he said.

Former Manchester United soccer player Gary Neville said Wednesday that he would open the doors of his two hotels to NHS workers free of charge for the coming months. Chelsea Football club, owned by Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, also said its hotel in the north-west of England would be made available.

“In the last week, we’ve been in consultation with the health services,” Neville said in a video posted ontwitter. “Our 176 beds will be occupied by NHS workers and medical professionals from Friday onwards.”

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, which owns Holiday Inn, has opened its hotel near London’s Heathrow Airport to house international travelers required to self-isolate on arrival. It’s talking to the government and local authorities about how to use the company’s 354 other U.K. hotels to help.

— With assistance by Alex Morales, and Olivia Konotey-Ahulu

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