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Shipping containers prove useful in fight against COVID-19

shipping containers used to help fight COVID-19

Shipping containers are incredibly versatile. Their primary use may be transportation, but they can be converted and utilised for a wide range of creative purposes, including everything from pop-up shops and accommodation to office space and canteens. And now – as we live through these unprecedented times – extraordinarily, they’re proving useful in the fight against COVID-19.

As a UK-leading specialist of shipping container conversions – here at Gap Containers – we’re always excited to hear about new container uses. Therefore, we thought we’d do a little research into the topic, and find out exactly how these humble steel boxes are helping to tackle a global pandemic.

3 impressive COVID-19 shipping container conversions

1. Pop-up ICUs

COVID-19 has a very high infection rate – and, over the last couple of months, the demand for healthcare facilities has risen exponentially. In some countries, hospitals simply haven’t been able to cope with the number of patients, with an extreme shortage of beds and equipment.

That’s why, several weeks ago, an international task force started work on a new initiative: to create temporary intensive care units (ICU) for patients with coronavirus. These units, called CURA (Contained Units for Respiratory Ailments), are made using a 20ft shipping container – that has been repurposed for biocontainment and fitted with the necessary equipment to treat two patients.

diagram of medical shipping container conversions

This is one of the finest examples of a shipping container conversion we have ever seen.

To ease pressure on healthcare systems, CURA was designed and produced in just four weeks. Pods can be installed independently or connected together by an inflatable structure, creating enough space for 40 beds (or more) and significantly expanding ICU capacity. They’re as quick to mount as hospital tent. Yet, these medical shipping containers are just as safe as a regular isolation ward, and offer the perfect conditions to provide intensive treatment for patients who are seriously ill.

On 19th April 2020, the first pod was installed at a new hospital in Turin, Northern Italy – one of the regions hit hardest by the pandemic. And, as the technical specifications and drawings are universally accessible online, more units are now being made all across the world.

shipping container conversions used to fight COVID-19

2. Temporary accommodation

Shipping containers are also being converted to provide emergency housing.

Take for example, Three Squared – the leading cargo architect firm based in Detroit. The firm typically converts shipping containers to build innovative container homes. However, over the last few weeks, they have refocused their efforts and started to create compact housing units for doctors and nurses who need to stay close to the hospital.

Similar measures have also been taken in the UK. In Cornwall, shipping container conversions are being provided for those in need of emergency housing during the crisis – including those who were living in temporary accommodation (e.g. hotels, B&Bs) and those who have been made homeless.

The containers are being placed on council-owned land and are fitted with all the essential utilities – including electricity – for people to live comfortably and safely throughout the pandemic.

Shipping container conversions used as temporary accommodation during COVID-19

3. Prison cells

Prisons have become a breeding ground for COVID-19 in the UK. That’s why, in April 2020, 4000 prisoners were released early – to help reduce overcrowding and limit further outbreaks.

To prevent any further early releases, the Ministry of Justice has now introduced 500 extra prison cells for HMP North Sea Camp, Moorland, Lindholme and Humber. These are made from steel shipping containers and come fitted with a sink and toilet in each. Therefore, they allow low-risk inmates to be held individually – rather than sharing a cell – and stick to social distancing guidelines.

Contact the shipping container conversion experts

Want to find out more about how shipping containers are helping to fight COVID-19? Or perhaps you have an idea for your own shipping container conversion? Please free to get in touch. We’re industry experts in this area. Over the years, we have worked on countless conversion projects – repurposing containers in a variety of ways and creating everything from mess huts to office blocks.

To have a chat with a member of the team, just give us a call on 0870 240 9405. Or, send an email to We’re always happy to help and would love to hear your ideas!

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