The coronavirus death toll in Spain has hit 491 as cases skyrocketed by 1,987 to 11,178 in just 24 hours.
The country will have ‘no tourists left’ within a matter of days as 500 hotels in the Costa Del Sol are set to shut as panic about the killer bug takes hold.
Cases have increased despite an unprecedented national lockdown, in which residents and tourists alike were banned from going outside except to buy food, go to work, or get medical help for 15 days.
Spain is the fourth worst-hit country in the world after China, Italy and Iran, with numbers rising rapidly.
Around 12,000 people could lose their jobs in the Andalusia region – which includes the Costa Del Sol – alone as a result of hotel closures.
The move is being described as ‘unavoidable’ following Spain’s declaration of a State of Emergency.
President of the Federation of Hotel Businesses of Andalusia, Luis Callejón Suñé said the 44 hotels already closed are ‘only the tip of the iceberg’, Spanish newspaper Sur.es reports.
Most of the rest of the hotels along the Costa del Sol are expected to close between now and the weekend.
These offer 78,000 beds and provide employment for 12,000 workers.
Thousands of hostels and apartment buildings are also expected to follow.
No dates have been announced for reopening but the closures will last until at least the summer.
Some of the hotels have offered their facilities as make-shift hospitals if needed.
The news follows yesterday’s announcement that hotels across Benidorm, the Costa Blanca and Valencia are also closing by Thursday on a voluntary basis in a bid to safeguard staff and tourists from the coronavirus outbreak.
And the Canary Islands are also expect to have ‘zero tourists’ within the next week after new measures limited the influx of people to the archipelago.
The Balearic Islands – which include Mallorca and Ibiza – are experiencing the same scenario with hotels closed and many chains also offering their rooms for patients if necessary.
The hotel association for the Costa Blanca has announced that hotels have taken the decision to ‘self regulate’ in the absence of an official order from the Spanish Government.
A statement issued by the association confirmed: ‘We would have liked the closure to have been decreed by order of the Government, as has happened in other countries but in the absence of a political decision hotel businessmen have decided to self-regulate ourselves in the application of the reasonableness and responsibility in these grave moments.
‘Thus, hundreds of companies have already decided to close and many others are joining this measure as an urgent need to control the health crisis that is causing a serious economic crisis.
‘Hotel and vacation activity is clearly incompatible with the measures decreed by the Central Government to confine the population to their homes and to keep hotels open we cannot guarantee the necessary isolation conditions to control the coronavirus pandemic.’
‘This decision has been communicated to the tourist authorities of the Valencian Community, to the Presidency of the Generalitat and to the mayors of the main City Councils for their knowledge.’
He added: ‘We have also proceeded to communicate this closure to the tour operators, travel agents and now it is time to start the procedure as soon as possible so that all the clients staying end their stay as soon as possible.’
‘This period is more than reasonable, especially if we take into account that the state of alarm was declared last Friday, which means that there will have been a period of almost a week to proceed with the repatriation and return to their places of origin of all tourists.’
‘This orderly closure must be done always taking into account inexcusable compliance criteria such as the safety of our staff, the fundamental rights of hygiene, health and nutrition of the clients and the obligatory need to avoid contagion within the establishments.’
Guests in hotels are being advised to make contact with their tour operators.