Coronavirus: Is it still safe to go on holiday to Tenerife?

Coronavirus: Is it still safe to go on holiday to Tenerife?
A man wears at mask at the airport in Tenerife. Photo: AFP
With news that Coronavirus has been detected on the Canary Island of Tenerife, a popular holiday destination for those seeking winter sun, many readers are asking whether it’s safe to go.

How many people have tested positive to COVID-19 on the island?

So far, four people have been confirmed to have the coronavirus. The first was an Italian doctor from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, a zone currently at the centre of an outbreak, who reported to a private clinic on Monday after recognising flu-like symptoms.

UPDATE: What we know so far about coronavirus in Spain

His wife and two friends who were holidaying with the couple were isolated because of the close contact and all three have since tested positive to the virus.

The group was staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel which as a result of the first confirmation was put on lockdown overnight on Monday to avoid further contagion.

Which hotels are affected?


Photo: AFP

As of Wednesday, February 26th the only place currently affected by the Coronavirus is a hotel on the southwest of the island  called the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel, a four star all-inclusive resort that is used by Jet2 and Tui holidays.

The hotel is currently on lockdown where guests are confined to their rooms although it has not officially been given “quarantine status”.

An estimated 800 guests and 200 staff are confined to the hotel which has been cordoned off by police to stop anyone unauthorised from entering or leaving its boundary.

This means that some of the guests have already missed their flights home. There have been reports from those inside that they have not been given information as to how long they can expect to be confined within the hotel or when they might be able to return home.

Those who are due to fly out to the island and are booked at that hotel should  be offered alternative accommodation by their booking agent.

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What do the holiday operators say?

In a statement email to The Local by Jet2 Holidays, a spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports that a non-Jet2holidays customer staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife has tested positive for coronavirus. Under the advice of the regional and the Spanish authorities, the hotel has been placed under quarantine.

“We have stopped all sales to the hotel, and customers who are due to travel to the hotel will be transferred to other accommodation.

“In line with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice, our flying programme remains unchanged.

“The health and safety of our customers is our absolute priority, and we will continue to release more information as it becomes available.”

Tui, Britain's biggest holiday company, offered a similar statement.  “We’re aware of a reported case of Covid 19 (Coronavirus) at the H10 Palace Hotel in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. We can confirm that TUI has around 200 customers in the hotel from different countries.

“TUI representatives on Tenerife are liaising with our customers. All guests have been asked to remain in their rooms and are being looked after by the hotel. Our holiday programme to Tenerife continue to operate as planned for all other hotels,” the statement continued.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and are in contact with the hotel and local authorities. We will provide a further update as soon as we have more information. The welfare, health and safety of our customers and employees continues to be our top priority.”

Another spokesman added:  “For customers due to travel to the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in the next 14 days, a member of our team will be proactively contacting you to discuss their booking, to offer a full refund or free amendment,” he said in an email to The Local.

“We’d like to reassure customers that this is an isolated case at this time. Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not advise against travel to Tenerife and therefore normal terms and conditions around cancellations and amendments apply. However, should the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice change, we will contact customers to discuss their options.”

So what do the British foreign office say?

Many of the visitors to the Canary Islands at this time of year are British tourists so what are the UK authorities saying about it?

Ambassador Hugh Elliott recorded a message specifically for those Brits trapped in the hotel offering support and contact numbers.

British consular staff are assisting those affected by the hotel lockdown.

An FCO spokesperson said:  “We are offering advice and support to a number of British people in a hotel in Tenerife, and their families. Our staff are in close contact with the hotel management and the Spanish authorities, have written to all British guests, and are in touch with anyone identified as vulnerable or in need. 

“Any British nationals who need support should contact the British Consulate in Tenerife on 0034 928 262 508.” 

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said:   “Public Health England has sent a health protection specialist to Tenerife to work with the Spanish authorities to better understand the public health measures that have been put in place in the hotel. This includes understanding spread of the virus within the hotel and how the Spanish authorities are monitoring the situation.” 

While British authorities have updated their travel advice on Italy warning “against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, which have been isolated by the Italian authorities due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19)”, no such warning has been issued for Spain.

The FCO page for travel to Spain acknowledges that the coronavirus has been detected there and advises: “You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.”

So travel advice to the Canary Islands and Spain as a whole remains unchanged.

But what if you want to cancel, can you claim cost from travel insurance?

As a general rule, if there is no official warning against travel to a destination, your decision will be classed as “disinclination to travel” – which is not covered by standard travel insurance policies.

I’m nervous because I’m high risk.

You will have read that the vast majority of people who contract the coronavirus make a full recovery and that is no more deadly that a common bout of flu.

But those people who are at highest risk of complications are elderly travellers and those with pre-exisiting medical conditions such as respiratory problems or a weakened immune system.

So if you feel nervous about taking the rish check your travel insurance policy and whether it takes account of your age and/or pre-existing conditions (it will have cost you extra on top of the standard cover).

If your doctor advises against travel then you may be eligible to make a claim.  

However, coronavirus may fall into the category of “known risk” depending  on when you took out the travel insurance and booked the holiday. If that falls before late January when the risk of coronavirus became widely known then  you may be covered.

For more information from the Spanish authorities, see the Spanish Ministry of Health website.

Further advice on coronavirus is available from Public Health England and on the TravelHealthPro website.

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