‘Medical beds are lacking’: The Rome hotels swapping tourists for Covid patients

Rome's Sheraton Parco de'Medici is one of more than 15 hotels in the city being repurposed to provide beds for Covid-19 patients as hospitals struggle.

'Medical beds are lacking': The Rome hotels swapping tourists for Covid patients
Staff and medics wait in the lobby at Rome's Sheraton Parco de'Medici hotel. All photos: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The plush hotel lobby is normally bustling with business travellers and tourists, but now healthcare workers in protective gear welcome patients from hospitals struggling with Italy's surge in coronavirus cases.
The Sheraton Parco de'Medici is one of more than 15 hotels being used to house Covid-19 patients in Rome, providing a total of 800 beds — half of
which are already occupied, according to the Lazio regional government.
“Medical beds have been lacking in the last few days, leading to a blockade of ambulances at the entrance of emergency rooms,” said Dr. Simona Amato, the
director of one of Rome's local health agencies.
The Sheraton, equipped with a swimming pool and located next to a golf course in the south of Rome, has made 169 rooms available for patients, with 49 of them also equipped for those who need oxygen.
It can house patients who are asymptomatic but need a place to isolate, patients in the process of recovery and those from the hospitals who are not in serious condition but still need treatment.
Italy, the first European country hit by coronavirus earlier this year, has recorded a surge in cases in recent weeks, with more than 30,000 infections and more than 600 deaths reported on Wednesday alone.
Staff prepare meals for Covid-postive guests isolating in hotel rooms. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
With health services under strain and many hotels standing empty due to the lack of tourists, Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia says the
government has arranged for 15,000 beds to be used for Covid-19 patients.
Not every region uses them, but this week Boccia promised a further strengthening of the network “to relieve the pressure on emergency rooms and on family doctors”.
Christian, a 23-year-old nurse, took up residence at the Sheraton after he began suffering mild symptoms. He lives with his parents, and was afraid of
infecting them.
“We are visited twice a day, the medical staff is here 24 hours a day. The room has all the comforts and was equipped with an oxygen tank because during
the first few days I had difficulty breathing,” he said
“The days are very long, I spend  my time watching movies on the computer and studying.”
A guest in isolation waves to a nurse at the Sheraton hotel in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Antonella De Gregorio, manager of the Urban Garden Hotel across town, has made available 50 rooms for asymptomatic coronavirus patients who need to
isolate, just as she did when the outbreak first hit Italy.
Each room costs 30 euros per day, paid by the regional authorities.
Medical assistance is on hand, although hotel staff do not come into contact with patients, instead focusing on administrative tasks.
“We offer a service and at the same time we are able to pay some expenses and save jobs,” De Gregorio said.

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US tourist fined €500 for driving on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge

Italian police fined a Californian man after he drove a rented Fiat Panda across Florence’s iconic - and pedestrianised - Ponte Vecchio on Thursday.

US tourist fined €500 for driving on Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge

The 34-year-old man drove onto the bridge in the early afternoon of Thursday, January 26th, but was quickly stopped by police.

He reportedly told officers that he was looking for parking and wasn’t aware he was on the Ponte Vecchio, one of Florence’s most recognisable landmarks.

Completed in 1345, the bridge today is famously a narrow, cobbled walkway lined with small shops selling jewellery and souvenirs.

READ ALSO: US tourist charged with public indecency after posing naked at Amalfi Cathedral

The visitor, from California, had been planning on touring Florence by car (a rented Fiat Panda, to be exact). 

But whether he was trying to put one over local police or he just wasn’t aware of local traffic rules, his early-afternoon ride cost him dearly as he later received a total 500-euro fine for entering a pedestrian-only area and driving without an international driving permit. 

READ ALSO: ‘Americans can pay’: Italian minister says famous sites should hike entry fees

Florence recently announced a restoration project worth €2 million for the bridge – which was the only one in the city left standing after World War II.

Thursday’s incident was not the first time a tourist was caught driving across the Ponte Vecchio. 

In 2019, a 79-year-old German tourist drove onto the bridge in a rented Lamborghini sports car. After being stopped by local police, the man reportedly told officers he was “lost”.