Hotels being converted into coronavirus hospitals and shelters

(CNN) — The Ayre Gran Hotel Colón is a four-star, 365-room design hotel in downtown Madrid close to Retiro Park and one of the city’s largest hospitals.

Earlier this year, its guests enjoyed newly renovated rooms, stained-glass windows, serene gardens and even an onsite art gallery. For the past week, however, the hotel’s two towers have been transformed into a medical facility to treat patients with mild cases of coronavirus.

With global travel at a standstill — and millions of people projected to contract Covid-19 in the coming months — governments around the world are looking to otherwise closed hotels as a way to alleviate stresses on overburdened health systems.

Some plan to turn hotels into shelters for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, others as safe houses to isolate those who may have been in contact with confirmed cases.

Still more hotels will be set aside for hospital workers who are exposed to patients daily and need a safe place to sleep close to their work.

The latter was a strategy utilized by officials in Wuhan, China, who erected specialized facilities — or in some cases, commandeered hotels — to isolate doctors and nurses. Health workers, of course, are at a higher risk of contracting the illness and subsequently passing it on to their families or fellow commuters.

Ayre Gran Hotel Colón is but one of dozens of hotels across Europe that are now being repurposed to fight the pandemic. Hoteliers in the Madrid region alone have offered authorities…

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