'It's like prison': Three British friends 'abandoned' in Italian coronavirus quarantine facility for month

  • london
  • September 17, 2020
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Three British friends have said they feel “abandoned” after being kept in quarantine for a month in an Italian coronavirus facility.

Will Castle, 22, Rhys James, 23, Quinn Paczesny, 20, had been teaching in northern Italy before they tested positive for the virus last month.

Mr Castle, from Brighton, said they were put in separate rooms, and that doctors told them they could not leave until they had two negative tests.

Despite showing no symptoms for more than three weeks, the friends said they have tested positive five times and were told they cannot leave the facility in Florence.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Mr Castle said: “We have to test negative twice in order to leave, which has to be 24 hours apart.

Will Castle, Rhys James, and Quinn Paczesny (Will Castle)

“We haven’t tested negative yet – we have tested positive five times in a row.

“After the third test, I asked why this was still happening. I got in touch with a doctor who came and answered our questions.

“She told us we were no longer contagious, but Italy has adopted a system whereby we have to test negative even if what is being picked up is dead cells and not an active virus.”

Mr Castle said they can only be tested once a week, despite pushing for more frequent testing.

“When we first got tested, we assumed the system would be the same as the UK. We assumed we would self-isolate,” he said.

The hospital room Mr Castle stayed in for a short time before being moved to another hotel (Will Castle)

“About two hours later, a nurse said we were going to a quarantine hotel and we would all be in separate rooms and wouldn’t be able to see each other.

“No reasoning was given, but we were told it was compulsory.”

During the last month, the three men have stayed in three different facilities.

“The first was a hotel for three or four days,” Mr Castle said. “We then got moved for no reason to a hospital-style place with no wi-fi – we were there for a week. The one we are in now is a hotel room – it’s not very big.

“The food is dreadful. The portions are tiny, it’s often cold.”

Mr Castle described the food as “dreadful” (Will Castle)

Later, Mr Castle was told they could leave if they signed a “legal contract” to isolate at an Italian address until they had two negative tests.

But leaving the facility was not an option for the three friends, Mr Castle said, as they had limited contacts in Italy.

“Every day I’m mentally drained, it’s one of those awful things where my mental state and mood relies on the food,” he said.

“We are not allowed to be in the same room as each other or see anyone.

“We feel abandoned. I feel like we have no one looking after us.

“It’s like prison, except in prison you can go outside once a day.”

The first hotel the trio stayed in before being moved to a hospital (Will Castle)

Worryingly, Mr Castle said he has spoken to people on their balconies who have been in quarantine for more than two months after repeatedly testing positive for the virus without showing symptoms.

“Everybody in this building is quarantined,” he said. “The guy next to me on my balcony is an Italian eye doctor and he has been here for three weeks.

“The guy next to Quinn, we were with in the hospital, he’s been with us for a month too.

“There was a guy on the balcony below Rhys who had been in here for two-and-a-half months.”

Mr Castle said he would be “gutted” but “unsurprised” if he tests positive for coronavirus again during his weekly test on Monday.

An example of the food the three men say they have been provided with (Will Castle)

“We all felt gutted this week, and then we got to the point where we had recovered from that emotion and we knew we had to do something,” he said.

“The saddest thing is that we were loving Italy, but having to do this and force our way out, it’s all tainted.

“The more people we talk to, it becomes clear the average is about one month.

“I do think we could be here another month.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman told the Standard: “We are assisting three British men hospitalised in Italy, and are in contact with the hospital.”