Lee Zama
Lee Zama

Hotel groups are in talks with the government about providing isolation beds for Covid-19 patients, but want a 60% payment upfront and medical staff on site.

This week hotel groups, the department of public works & industry and the department of health have been discussing terms.

Lee Zama, the CEO of Fedhasa, the trade association for the hospitality industry, said hotels had been asked by the government to help with isolation sites in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

"In the past we were working with quarantine sites for repatriated citizens," she said.

Guidelines and details of the number of beds to be provided are being finalised.

The parties have agreed on costs for quarantine sites, as they did with isolation sites. But for quarantine beds, hotels want part of the payment ahead of time to prepare and to help the industry survive.

"The rates that we negotiated over two months ago were based on a cost recovery basis because there is no intention among the players to make money out of this," said Zama.

The government emphasised that it either has no money or has not budgeted for such an emergency, according to Zama.

She said the hotels were asking the government to pay at least 60% upfront because they need to buy food and equipment to deliver food, and get personal protection equipment for staff in the hotels.

The hotels have also asked the government for medical personnel to be on site 24 hours a day.

"We are hotels, we are not hospitals. We are learning as we go and we are implementing the required measures that [the department of health] gives us," said Zama.

"The discussion we are having is at least having 24-hour medical personnel being stationed on the site. Alternatively there must be a 24-hour line we can use to contact medical staff."

According to a statement by the department of public works & industry, cases of the virus are expected to rise and 1,751 facilities have been identified as proposed quarantine sites, containing about 129,600 beds across the country.

Of these 1,751 facilities, 642 are state-owned and 1,109 private.

Zama said the government was in the process of contracting various hotels.

She said the process would include inspections by the department of health.

"There will be a gradual move into hotels and they will be notified 48 hours prior [to] when the government will be taking over once the medical processes have been completed.

"We are projecting that these processes will commence over the next week or so."

Meanwhile, the easing of the lockdown at level 3 may provide the hospitality industry with some room to breathe now that business travel and accommodation are permitted.

City Lodge Hotel Group has opened 15 of its 56 hotels for this purpose, with one operating as an isolation hotel.

The group's COO, Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, said that although the company was expecting a demand for business accommodation, it was willing to step up and help with quarantine facilities when needed.

"For as long as a demand for quarantine hotels by government exists, we will avail our hotels. However, given that we cannot mix essential service and business guests in quarantine hotels, we will not be in a position to offer hotels operating as essential services or business hotels for the purpose of quarantine hotels," she said.

City Lodge said it was expecting strong demand from business travellers.

"With the opening of the three major airports we anticipate greater movement of business travellers in the three major metro poles," Sangweni-Siddo said.

The Capital Empire Hotel, which is part of The Capital Hotels and Apartments group, has changed its business strategy to operate private isolation hotels. This is in partnership with Discovery Health.

"Because they are medical specialists, Discovery has helped create the Covid-19 manual around how we operate, said the group's MD, Marc Wachsberger.

"They have provided nurses and training for our hotel staff. They are also providing clients as they have about 50% of private medical aid holders in SA."