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Airbnb to help house 100,000 medical staff and first responders during coronavirus pandemic

‘As medical and relief workers require accommodation for response and preparedness, the Airbnb community is in a unique position to help,’ says epidemiologist

Helen Coffey
Friday 27 March 2020 14:30 GMT
Airbnb is waiving all fees for first responders
Airbnb is waiving all fees for first responders (Airbnb)

Airbnb is launching a new global initiative to help healthcare professionals and first responders fighting coronavirus on the frontline to access free or subsidised accommodation.

The home sharing platform says it aims to house 100,000 of these key workers around the world, giving them a safe and convenient place to stay while they tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

All Airbnb fees will be waived as part of the scheme.

The idea follows two pilot programmes in Italy and France; Airbnb put out the call for hosts to offer up their homes for free to house doctors, nurses, caregivers and other medical support staff.

Nearly 6,000 hosts volunteered to take part.

Airbnb has said that, even if hosts are not able to host first responders for free, the company will still waive all its fees on stays that are part of the initiative, meaning the cost will be subsidised.

“Medical workers and first responders are providing lifesaving support during the coronavirus outbreak and we want to help,” says Airbnb’s co-founder Joe Gebbia.

“We’ve heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders.

“We are connecting our nonprofit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times.”

The brand is partnering with organisations that have already deployed thousands of relief workers to help fight the pandemic, in order to connect workers that need accommodation with hosts who can house them locally.

Partner organisations include the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Rescue Committee, International Medical Corps and other nonprofits.

Airbnb is also consulting experts to determine best practice when it comes to measures to stop the spread of the virus.

“While science is still developing around Covid-19, and there is a lot we do not know, we have provided guidance to support the Airbnb community participating in immediate efforts with governments and institutions,” said Dr Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist and Chair of Ending Pandemics.

“As medical and relief workers require accommodation for response and preparedness, the Airbnb community is in a unique position to help.

“We are working to provide clear communication and resources, based on rapidly evolving knowledge about this novel virus and best practices on sanitation, in order to help keep communities as safe as possible.”

Some safe hosting recommendations include listing entire homes, carrying out enhanced cleaning, practising social distancing with guests and allowing at least 72 hours between stays.

Airbnb has also launched a donation tool, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going directly to nonprofits helping with Covid-19 relief efforts.

While Airbnb is providing housing options globally, a similar initiative, NHS Homes, has also been launched in the UK.

The scheme is a collaborative effort from by UnderTheDoormat, Laundryheap, onefinestay, Homes & Villas by Marriott International Altido and LoveHomeSwap, and offers free accommodation for NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the scheme, UnderTheDoormat, onefinestay, Altido and LoveHomeSwap will be providing free accommodation in partnership with their property-owners; Laundryheap will be delivering clean linen and towels for the medical staff; while Homes & Villa by Marriott International will be providing the amenities.

Travel and the coronavirus crisis: What can be done?

Merilee Karr, chair of UK Short Term Accommodation Association, said: “The original scheme has only been running for a couple of days but already demand is outstripping supply."

She added: “I am delighted that we are able to help the NHS key workers who literally put their lives on the line for us every day and it’s great to work together with other incredible companies from across the industry to set up this scheme.

"We are speaking to companies and property portfolio owners to bring on more rooms and properties and the additional services that will make stays for NHS workers comfortable. We want to get as many companies on board as possible to make this a truly industry-wide initiative.”

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