Airbnb declared that it shall not allow most people to book flats or houses via their website across the UK, due to the coroanvirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. On 9 April 2020, the BBC reported that business will maintain closures at least until 18 April, in order to assist in not facilitating the spread of the virus.
The company's decision followed repeated calls by British politicians to take action after it was revealed that some people were advertising their residences as "COVID-19 retreats" for the Easter holidays, including in properties which are shared. It was also reported that customers could make use of fast-track bookings without any vetting necessary.
— Nigel Huddleston MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@HuddlestonNigel) April 7, 2020
The Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Tory MP Nigel Huddleston, called it "incredibly irresponsible" and "dangerous for property owners to be marketing themselves as "isolation retreats" ". He said via Twitter that he had written to businesses to "remind them of their responsibilities" during the outbreak of the virus. Scottish politicians also expressed concern over the idea that holidaymakers were being encouraged to book short term stays in their country and asked the company to cease advertising rental properties while the lockdown remains in effect.
But the rental restrictions are not being applied, for now, to "frontline" staff. The Airbnb's UK website states:
"Airbnb is partnering with hosts to connect 100,000 healthcare staff and first responders with places to stay that allow them to be close to their patients – and safely distanced from their own families. We may be apart, but we’ll get through this together."
The business says that it is partnering with NGOs, businesses and governments to ensure that "COVID-19 responders" are provided with the support they need. Partner organisations apparently include the International Rescue Committee, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Medical Corps. The company, which has facilitated 400 million rental stays since it was established, is encouraging landlords and property owners to participate in their "frontline" policies, noting that they are, "waiving all Airbnb fees for the first 100,000 bookings that happen through this programme".