As hotels and holiday accommodation across the country are financially strangled during continued lockdown, some establishments have passed stringent health regulations to double as places of quarantine, which allows them to  keep running and keep their staff employed. One of these is the Houw Hoek Hotel, on the N2 between Sir Lowry’s Pass and Hermanus.

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Houw Hoek Hotel.

Mariana Arends, a diabetic, was one of the people who recently stayed in quarantine at the hotel as she waited for her COVID test results to come back – they turned out to be negative in the end – and she said it was like a mini-holiday and the Houw Hoek Hotel staff couldn’t have been nicer. Her experience was described in a Facebook post shared by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

A section of Houw Hoek Hotel has been turned into a place where people can be quarantined while they wait for their COVID-19 test results. The hotel has to pass a stringent test for sanitising rooms after they have been vacated.

“It’s a way to keep my staff employed,” said owner Robert Haarburger, who has more than 100 workers at the almost 80-room hotel.

In Winde’s Facebook post, he wrote: “Mariana Arends, a 42-year-old self-employed mother from Botrivier, came into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. When Mariana received the news that she is a close contact of a positive case, she had common cold and flu symptoms and was not sure whether she should be worried or not.

“With Mariana being a Type 1 diabetic, a contact of a positive case, and showing symptoms, her health team decided to test her for COVID-19. At the time there was a huge backlog with the COVID-19 testing and she knew her test results could take a while. While waiting for her test results she was required to quarantine and she had to make a tough decision: will she stay home to be with her family or will she make use of a quarantine facility. She reviewed her situation and realised it would be impossible for her to safely quarantine at home without putting her elderly parents and her children in danger.

houw hoek hotel grabouw south africa

“After being tested, Mariana was taken to a guest house in Caledon where she could safely quarantine in her own room with her own bathroom. However, after four days another person’s results, who was also in quarantine at the facility, came back positive for COVID-19 and the health team decided to move Mariana to a different facility to reduce any risk of her becoming infected. Mariana was transferred to Houw Hoek Hotel for the rest of her quarantine period.

“’When I entered the facility, it immediately felt like home. The manager welcomed me and did not make me feel like I have the plague,’ says Mariana. She says the staff went out of their way to make her comfortable and she felt more like a hotel guest than a patient at the facility. ‘Because of my chronic condition, they adjusted my meals and made sure I constantly had something to eat and drink, they even maintained my love for coffee.’

“Mariana says her health team checked in regularly to make sure that her symptoms have not worsened. She received her negative result after 19 days of quarantine (test results were delayed at the time due to national backlog) and was then discharged from the facility. ‘Although I missed my family, my stay at the facility felt like a mini holiday,’ says Mariana.

“’Making the decision to stay at a quarantine facility was the best decision I could make for my family. I never felt alone as I was in contact with my family and friends via social media and telephone calls,’ says Mariana.

“’If there is any advice I can give to the community, it’s that people should not stigmatise community members who test positive or are contacts of a positive person. This can happen to anyone and we need to support one another,’ says Mariana.”

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