Coronavirus: Airbnb wants to offer 100,000 free or subsidised homes to health workers

Online accommodation provider Airbnb has launched a new initiative to support frontline health staff around the world who have to work through the coronavirus pandemic.

The company is aiming to provide as many as 100,000 healthcare employees with free or subsidised homes while they carry out their essential service.

Airbnb, which acts as a broker between accommodation providers and travellers, says it will waive its commission for any hosts that take up the initiative.

The initiative is an expansion of a trial held in France earlier this week, which saw 4000 doctors, nurses and caregivers gifted free accommodation by hosts.

"Medical workers and first responders are providing lifesaving support during the coronavirus outbreak, and we want to help," Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said.

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

"We are connecting our non-profit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times."

Hosts can opt into the scheme through Airbnb's Open Homes platform, which was launched in 2012 to meet the needs of those in desperate need of emergency housing.

Airbnb says it's conscious hygiene will be a key concern in this time, and has developed a new cleaning protocol to ensure the coronavirus does not spread.

There are currently more than 520,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, and 24,000 deaths.