Wandering in a large hotel emptied by a coronavirus and checking 1400 taps

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BARCELONA, Spain – Every five days, Daniel Ordoñez opens 1,400 taps in a waterfront hotel here in Barcelona that locals call “The Sail” because of its shape.

Each tap should last about five minutes, so it takes an entire day. “It is probably the most boring part of my job, but it is necessary,” he said, to avoid a form of pneumonia that can be spread by bacteria in water: Legionnaires’ disease .

Mr. Ordoñez, who is responsible for the maintenance of the hotel, has been its only continuous occupant for two months, wandering in its ghostly rooms because of another disease which ravaged the country and the world: Covid-19.

He now lives alone on the 24th floor, which gives him a breathtaking view of the city, its beaches and the Mediterranean. “At first I thought I would be here for about two weeks,” said Mr. Ordoñez, single. “But now it’s eight o’clock, with no end in sight. “

Arguably the most iconic luxury accommodation in Barcelona, ​​the W Hotel is 100 meters away high and 27 storeys high, overlooking the city waterfront. Some might find it disturbing to walk its deserted corridors, look in its living rooms or dine alone on a plate of fried chicken and vegetables cooked in a cavernous restaurant kitchen, but Mr. Ordoñez does not.

“It was a little weird to watch my few socks spinning inside the washing machine of a huge utility room, but I also had time to get used to it,” he said with an ironic smile during a recent interview with a visitor. at a safe distance.

With an official death toll of just over 27,000, Spain is one of the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This month, the Madrid government began gradually easing the lockdown restrictions to bring the country back to what Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez calls “the new normal” in late June.

But there is no indication when Spain will recover losses from a tourism industry that accounted for 12% of its economy last year. Foreign visitors on Friday face a quarantine of 14 days upon arrival, a measure which will be maintained “as long as necessary” to avoid “imported cases” that could negate the gains from national foreclosure efforts, said the minister. Spanish for Health, Salvador. Illa, warned Tuesday.

Mr. Ordoñez, 37, left behind a house on the outskirts of Barcelona to take up residence in the grand hotel and continue his maintenance tasks. Yet, he said, he would stay as long as necessary in a hotel where he knows every nook and cranny, from its ventilation shafts to its underground storage areas. “It was already my second home before the lockout,” he said.

But the Barcelona hotel’s decision to ask Mr. Ordoñez to stay inside highlights another problem: the infrastructure that needs to be maintained, even when business is stalled.

Now, the absence of tourists has left Barcelona and other holiday destinations across Spain facing a disturbing economic threat.

“If countries like Spain, Italy and Greece do not get a summer tourist season either, the northern countries will also suffer because they will have to face a much larger European bailout,” said Bary. Pradelski, associate professor of economics at the National Center for Scientific Research in France. He argued that vacation travel should resume quickly – at least between regions of the European Union at very low risk of infection.

Travel is an important activity for the European Union, of which Spain is a member (tourism represents 10% of the block’s gross economic production). Free movement across borders is also a central part of life in an interconnected continent. In order to save the summer tourist season, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, recommended on Wednesday that countries with similar levels of coronavirus epidemics ease travel restrictions.

The committee said this should ultimately lead to the restoration of free movement between the 27 bloc member states. But his advice is not binding, and each member is likely to stick to their own policies.

A night in the penthouse at the W hotel in Barcelona can cost up to € 13,500 (around $ 14,660). Hotel management has refused to discuss the financial consequences of closing the suite and its 472 other rooms since March, but on Monday, its parent company, Marriott, announced lower first quarter results. Marriott also said its sales per available room fell 90% in April.

Only at the hotel, Mr. Ordoñez, who is normally responsible for a team of 20 maintenance staff, had to face certain challenges – such as trying to fix something by standing on a stepladder. On occasion, he called on the only other person on duty in the building: a rotating guard who monitored the hotel’s security cameras from a basement control room. (The guard does not sleep in the hotel.)

But there is an advantage to working in a deserted space, said Mr. Ordoñez. This month, he tested the hotel’s sound system without bothering to disturb customers. “A good deal of our time is normally spent responding to customer complaints,” he said. “This problem has certainly disappeared by now. “

At the start of the foreclosure of Spain, while the country was in shock from an increasing death toll and growing economic devastation, Mr. Ordoñez decided to do more than test the taps: he adjusted the curtains and lighting in some rooms to create a giant heart on the hotel’s facade.

It has become a beacon of solidarity with the country’s healthcare professionals. Since the reopening of the waterfront promenade this month, residents have taken selfies in front of the heart.

“It was like a great way to connect with what’s going on outside,” said Ordoñez.

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