A Dubai resident who booked a last-minute flight to Italy to watch the UEFA Euro 2020 quarter-final has been stuck in hotel quarantine for six days after testing positive for Covid-19.
Simon Collingwood, 37, said what was meant to be a dream trip to watch England play Ukraine in Rome turned disastrous from the get-go.
In a rush to catch his plane in Dubai on July 2, he ripped his bag and misplaced his mobile phone in a taxi on the way to the airport.
Speaking to The National from his hotel room in Italy on Wednesday, the British citizen described the past week as a “comedy of errors”.
“I’ve had a banging headache for days, high fever and aches but I’m slowly turning a corner now,” he said.
“The day I flew out couldn’t have gone any worse what with all that happened. I knew it was a bad sign but I still went ahead.
“When I landed in Italy they did a rapid Covid-19 test on arrival, which came back positive. I couldn’t believe it.”
No hot water for two days
Mr Collingwood, a director at an events company in Dubai, was due to fly back to Dubai on July 4 but after the positive result he was whisked away in a van at the terminal to a "filthy holding room".
He was then greeted by two staff in hazmat suits who carried out a second, more invasive test, where swabs were inserted up both nostrils for an extended period.
He was hoping the second set of results would come back negative but after more than 24 hours they came back positive, which sealed his fate in hotel quarantine.
“The staff didn’t say too much at the airport as they spoke Italian and I spoke English,” he said.
“I went back in the van and they drove me down to an old hotel to quarantine, it was more like staff quarters on the outskirts of the airport, and that’s where I have been ever since.
“I didn’t have hot water for two days, no toiletries, not even soap, and when I finally managed to pick the lock on the window to get fresh air, I noticed a wasps' nest right outside the window. You couldn’t make it up.
“I’m getting used to Italian TV but I’m not fluent just yet. I even ran a five-kilometre marathon up and down the room.
“It was the hardest run I've done and so slow because of the limited space but I had to do something to pass the time.”
'Tasteless and lukewarm' food
A few days after checking in to the hotel, a colleague sent a care package with painkillers, food and toothpaste.
He was also reunited with his phone on Tuesday after a friend tracked down the taxi driver in Dubai and brought it with him on a flight out to Italy.
For the past six days, Mr Collingwood said communication with staff at the hotel has been severely limited.
For 20 seconds, twice a day, he gets temperature-checked by someone in a hazmat suit but he does not get to go out and walk.
When he does try to call reception to make simple requests or ask for updates on his testing status, the phone is almost always engaged.
Like a scene straight out of a prison movie, he said he drew a calendar and stuck it on the wall to mark off each day as it passes.
By his calculations, he should be able to test again on Sunday and be released on Monday if all goes well.
He will be watching Wednesday night's semi-final clash with Denmark on Italian television with no subtitles.
Each morning, breakfast consists of “a sad packaged croissant that you’d pick up from a petrol station” and warm coffee-flavoured milk.
Lunch and dinner is a variation of fish or chicken but it's tasteless and lukewarm.
“If I’m being honest, the food is horrendous,” he said.
“Fortunately, I eat pretty much anything so I’ve just had to suck it up. We get three small bottles of water a day, too.
“I get it, though. Italy was badly hit with Covid-19 at the beginning of the outbreak so they’re just being super-wary. At the end of the day I am infected, so they have to be cautious.”
Mr Collingwood said he has a flight booked out of Rome to Dubai with Emirates on July 14 and is hoping he can make it.
He has no idea whether he has to pay for the hotel quarantine or not – but said he hopes he is not hit with a large bill on check out.