Airbnb hosts to provide free rooms for British health workers

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of diplayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) – Airbnb hosts will provide free rooms for workers in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to support their work during the coronavirus outbreak, the company said on Sunday.

Nearly 1,500 places to stay have been made available under the scheme amid a slump in bookings on the home rental start-up as travel restrictions and curbs on social gatherings come into force around the world.

Britain has looked to bolster its public health service to deal with the crisis, including establishing a field hospital in a one-time Olympic venue and turning a theme park into a testing facility for health workers.

“By working together, we can ensure that frontline workers can find a free and convenient place to stay as they continue their critical work,” said Patrick Robinson, Director of Public Policy at Airbnb.

Airbnb has done similar schemes in Italy and France in response to the outbreak, and aims to house 100,000 emergency personnel around the world during the epidemic.

The company has suspended marketing activities to save money, and executives are taking a pay cut as the firm battles with a downturn in bookings triggered by the spread of coronavirus.

Airbnb’s bookings in major cities across the world have suffered as travelers cancel trips and stay at home to protect themselves and prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Giles Elgood

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