Shipping container hotels are helping local authorities in Japan in their fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, acting as sites for testing patients.

These small one-unit hotels, called "rescue hotels" by Develop Co., a land developer based in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, are mobile and easy to install, and also serve as a holding area for medical workers.

(A mobile container hotel is shipped to Mitaka in Tokyo)[Photo courtesy of  Develop Co.]

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Company officials said the individual units preclude common areas and are useful in ensuring that people avoid the "Three Cs" of being in confined and crowded spaces, and in close contact, to prevent the spread of the virus.

The more than 500 shipping container hotels used as accommodations in normal times are sent to the disaster-hit areas and used as "rescue hotels" in times of natural calamities.

Each repurposed container is like a hotel room, with a bed and a bath unit, allowing evacuees to settle in quickly instead of waiting for temporary housing to be constructed.

(The inside of a mobile container hotel)[Photo courtesy of  Develop Co.]

Develop sent 50 of these container hotels to the southwestern Japan city of Nagasaki, where an Italian cruise ship docked and saw an outbreak of COVID-19 in April, infecting more than 100 of its crew members.

The hotels, which were deployed from Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, and Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, were used as holding areas for onsite healthcare workers.

They were similarly used in Mitaka, western Tokyo, in June.

Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward also used some container hotels from Develop that month to conduct polymerase chain reaction tests for the coronavirus, switching from doing it under an outdoor tent to take advantage of air conditioning amid the summer heat.

"Not too many people can fit in our hotels, but we would like them to be used as headquarters during emergencies," a company official said.