INTERNATIONAL NEWS - At Prague's four-star King Charles Boutique hotel, paramedics in protective gear treat ulcerous wounds and hand out painkillers to homeless people with Covid.
Once a destination for international travellers, the upmarket hotel has now opened its doors to the city's homeless who are sick with coronavirus or need to quarantine.
It is one of three hotels offering the service in the Czech capital, where tourism has all but ground to a halt thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Located at the foot of the history-laden hill of Vysehrad, the hotel currently hosts around 35 homeless people.
"We saw there were... sick people among the homeless and that they have nowhere to spend the isolation or quarantine," said Ludmila Tomesova, deputy head of Prague's Centre of Social Services, which runs the project with financing from the city.
The Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people, tops the world's statistics for Covid-19 infections per capita over the past two weeks and is second in new deaths, according to an AFP tally based on official data.
The King Charles Boutique Residence hotel, with a capacity of some 60 beds, has so far seen about 300 guests.
"We accept clients with mild Covid symptoms, because we are a humanitarian service, not a health facility, so we don't have a doctor here," Tomesova said.
"But when there is a serious case, when the disease develops, we call a hospital and ask for a transport."
Czech hotels, just like restaurants and most shops, have been closed for most of the past year under restrictions taken by the government to combat the virus spread.
The Czech Republic registered nearly 24,000 homeless people including 2,600 children in 2019, mostly in Prague and an industrial northeastern region, according to official data.
Tomesova said humour was a potent weapon at the hotel, but that bad news prevailed.
"It's tough to put up with a client's death," she said.
"Funny stories are scarce. But we are happy when clients get cured and you can send them back to everyday life."