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Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 17:12 UK

Swine flu hotel guests frustrated

A guest waves from the window of the Metropark hotel, Hong Kong, 3 May 2009
Nearly 300 guests are have been confined to the hotel

Travellers in a Hong Kong hotel have been speaking of their frustration and boredom as they endure a week-long quarantine imposed as a precaution against swine flu.

Guests have complained about a monotonous diet of "rice, rice or more rice", and some have resorted to using the stairs for exercise.

Amid global interest in the swine flu outbreak - which has its epicentre in Mexico and has spread to at least 20 countries - the Metropark Hotel has become something of a tourist and media attraction.

Passers-by have been seen taking photos of officials in protective white clothing, while guests have been giving interviews to the press from their rooms.

Officials cordoned off the hotel on Friday after it was discovered that a Mexican who had been staying there had tested positive for swine flu.

Some 274 guests and staff are confined at the site, where they are being closely monitored.

"They check us every day," said British guest Eddie Sweeney.

"They check our temperature and we are on Tamiflu pills - and if you go over a certain temperature, or have a cough or sneeze, then you're whisked off to hospital," he told the BBC.

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Hong Kong hotel room 'lockdown'

Calling the quarantine "very frustrating", he said authorities did not want people congregating, to guard against the spread of any infection.

"We go down to pick up our meals and you do meet people but you can't stay very long… So more or less you go back to your rooms."

However, he noted that some guests staying as high as the 17th floor had been able to use the stairs for exercise.

One Korean businessman confined to the hotel said he risked losing a big contract because of the quarantine.

"If I tell [my business partners] I am in here, then they will never ever see me," the man told a local broadcaster, RTHK.

"I am a businessman. I don't want to die in this lousy hotel."

Chocolates

Kevin Ireland, who had travelled to Hong Kong from India on a business trip, said he thought there had been a "sense of paranoia" in the initial reaction.

Media outside Hong Kong's Metropark hotel, 4 May 2009
The Metropark has attracted much interest from the media

He said guests who had been taken to hospital for tests following the discovery of the Mexican man's case had all tested negative.

"It's apparent that there's nobody who has the disease, and in fact there are even a few people who are walking around without face masks," he said.

Asked if he felt like he was being held against his will, Mr Ireland said: "On one level yes, but from the other point of view Hong Kong has had a bad experience with [respiratory disease] Sars in the past, and maybe they can justify their actions."

Another guest, Leslie Carr, has been blogging and sending videos into YouTube as he counts down the days until the end of the quarantine period.

Bemoaning the "choice of rice, rice or more rice with a dash of pork, chicken leg," he said that after going through the food menu it was "back to the room to search for a spot or mark on the wall that you haven't see in the last 36 hours".

But the outlook for the guests was not entirely bleak.

Authorities are offering to cover the cost of rooms and expenses while Hong Kong's health secretary sent a box of chocolates to each of the guests to thank them for their patience, reports said.

A French businessman told AFP news agency that giving interviews to the media had helped the time pass more quickly.

Guests also noted that the staff and officials had been trying their best to keep guests happy.

"I have to say they've been very efficient polite and helpful at all times," said Mr Sweeney.

"Anything you ask for, if they haven't got it, they'll go and get it for you.

"Obviously we're in their country, and that's their rules - there's not a lot we can do about it."



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