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Shipping container labs could be the solution to keeping frontline workers safe

Photo: Virus testing in shipping container labs
Shipping containers fitted with coronavirus testing facilities could be the solution to keeping frontline workers safe, a Sydney-based architect says.

Shipping containers could be the unlikely solution to drastically increasing coronavirus testing while keeping frontline workers safe.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stressed that increasing testing rates is key to preventing a "second wave" COVID-19 outbreak and undoing all the good done by the current restrictions.

It's unclear how that would happen but non-profit manufacturing firm P&G thinks it has the answer: fully kitted out shipping containers, built and manned by veterans and refugees.
At present, pop-up testing centres being used around the world leave health workers exposed to the elements and with limited access to sanitisation facilities, P&G director Douglas Abdiel says.

"Where they've set up tents in places like South Korea or America, they found that their workers are only able to stand the pressure for about five hours before the lack of facilities makes it untenable for them," he told reporters on Friday.

By equipping shipping containers with all the right gear, Mr Abdiel thinks the problem can be solved and be cost effective.

P&G's prototype testing centre, which began construction on Friday, will have a drive-through annexe outside, with storage, a washing-up and changing area, and testing facilities inside the air-conditioned container.

"In this very small 20-foot container we've tried to put all of the things necessary for any condition," Sydney-based architect Robert Barnstone said.

The design was inspired by and created with regional Australia in mind - where containers are abundant but large hospitals are not.

"We're really using these shed technologies, which are kind of inherent to rural Australia, to create these projects - simple, straightforward and no fuss," Mr Barnstone said.

The container was a logical base for the design, he says, because it is easily shipped and deployed anywhere where there's a flat surface.

The prototype will take three weeks to build but Mr Abdiel says if the process is industrialised, the containers could be completed in a matter of days.

Once construction of the first container is complete, P&G hopes to secure funding to build and ship their testing centres around the globe.


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