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Coronavirus: Belfast landlord offers Airbnb free to NHS and urges others to do same

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Charlie Harington outside his Airbnb property near the City Hospital

Charlie Harington outside his Airbnb property near the City Hospital

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Charlie Harington outside his Airbnb property near the City Hospital

A Belfast Airbnb owner is offering his property free of charge to NHS workers fighting coronavirus and has urged other landlords across Northern Ireland to do the same.

Charlie Harington (34) and his wife Melanie (32), who live in Holywood with their three children Wilf (4), Lola (2) and eight-week-old Fiabh, are trying to help in the battle against Covid-19.

The couple posted on Facebook on Saturday night that their two-bed mid-terrace Airbnb near Belfast City Hospital was available to NHS workers rent free.

The following morning the post had been shared almost 3,000 times and that gave Charlie and Melanie the idea to try and co-ordinate a Northern Ireland-wide effort.

Two intensive care unit nurses were the first to take up the offer and Charlie, who is originally from London and works for Qubis at Queen's University, Belfast, said the demand from doctors and nurses for somewhere to stay during the crisis was clear.

"Even if it's sleeping there for one night or just coming back to the house for an hour or two during their break to get out of the hospital environment," he explained.

"NHS workers may also live with vulnerable people, whether that's children or ill parents, and they then can't go back to stay with them.

"They're very scared about going home because they don't want to put their family members at risk so there's demand from that side as well.

"It's an Airbnb rental, and as you can imagine, bookings have completely dried up as there aren't any tourists coming to Belfast so it's sitting there empty.

"I can hit the car park at City Hospital with a stone from the front door so it just seemed like a waste to have it sitting there.

"My wife and I physically can't do a huge amount for this effort. We're not frontline staff and we're not teaching key workers' kids so this is our way of doing our bit," he added. Charlie is now hoping that health trusts will co-ordinate a plan with landlords to use vacant properties so they can be used by frontline staff and he has offered to help however he can.

With hotels possibly closing in the days and weeks ahead in a major lockdown scenario, Charlie believes these properties will become vital for the NHS.

"I just want to get the word out there, in particular to landlords who might want to generously give their homes over to nurses, doctors or any NHS worker who is fighting this at the minute," he added.

"There needs to be some coordination between trusts and people like myself who are happy to lend their time.

"I'm happy to organise with landlords and be a go-between in my spare time."

To get in touch with Charlie or if you have a vacant property that you would like to be made available to NHS staff visit Free Accommodation: Connecting NI landlords to NHS workers on Facebook.

Belfast Telegraph