Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it has offered a specially designed minivan to a Tokyo hospital to transport coronavirus patients with serious symptoms, the latest step in the group's efforts to help frontline workers fight the pandemic.

The vehicle for Showa University Hospital joins another 11 smaller transport vehicles provided by Toyota to hospitals and local governments to carry patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

The spacious vehicle, developed by subsidiary Toyota Auto Body Co., features an interior barrier that separates the compartment housing the driver and front passenger seats from a rear area where a bed can be transported.

(Supplied photo shows Toyota Motor Corp.'s specially designed minivan with an interior barrier.)

An exhaust fan continuously expels air from the rear compartment out of the vehicle so that it will not be circulated to the forward compartment, preventing infection. The novel coronavirus is known to be transmitted by airborne droplets.

Toyota has offered the vehicles to meet growing demand for the transportation of patients with symptoms for treatment at facilities such as hotels due to concerns about hospital over capacity.

The auto industry is stepping up efforts to address shortages of medical equipment amid the pandemic, with Toyota and Nissan Motor Co. making protective face shields and ventilators at their factories.

Honda Motor Co. also said in early April it will donate around 50 specially designed vehicles for the transportation of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms to local governments in Tokyo and other parts of Japan with high numbers of infections.

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