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Airbnb adds coronavirus cleaning protocol and 24-hour buffer between rentals

Travelers will soon be able to see which listings are certified as disinfected.

Airbnb has taken a financial hit during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
James Martin/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Airbnb is adding a new type of rental to its listings: homes deep cleaned for the novel coronavirus. The short-term rental company announced Monday a new certification program that hosts can opt in to called the "Cleaning Protocol." Travelers will be able to see and book these rentals on Airbnb's website.

The protocol will be a set of instructions given to hosts on how to clean and sanitize all rooms in their homes. It will include what products and protective gear to use. An Airbnb spokesman declined to give more details on the cleaning regime but said the company will have more specifics going forward. He said the protocol won't be allowed for shared room rentals.

According to public health officials, the coronavirus can lurk on surfaces and if not properly disinfected can lead to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. To date, more than 3 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 200,000 have died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's "unknown how long the air inside a room occupied by someone with confirmed COVID-19 remains potentially infectious," but the public health institute does offer guidelines on disinfecting. Those recommendations include wearing disposable gloves when cleaning and using specific disinfectant chemicals known to kill the virus, such as bleach.

Airbnb said it's developing its new cleaning protocol with guidance from the former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and the commercial cleaning company Ecolab. The company said it will also require hosts to have a 24-hour buffer between guests.

"These approaches will continue to evolve as our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 grows," Murthy said in a statement.

Hosts who are unable to complete the cleaning protocol can instead opt in to another new Airbnb feature focused on COVID-19 prevention called Booking Buffer. With this feature, hosts commit to keeping their home empty 72 hours between each guest.

Airbnb has experienced a financial hit during the pandemic. It's seen tens of thousands of canceled reservations and plummeting revenue. The company was on track for an initial public offering this spring, but reportedly is postponing those plans.

To get back on track and as certain cities start to reopen and shelter-in-place orders lift, Airbnb is positioning itself as an alternative to hotels. On Monday, the company touted its rentals as having amenities like private kitchens and laundry, so guests wouldn't have to be around other people.

"Homes have become a place of shelter, and the future of travel will also rely on a new comfort zone, with the privacy and benefits of a home away from home, without crowds or high turnovers," said Greg Greeley, Airbnb's president of homes.

Airbnb's new cleaning protocol will become available to hosts in May. As soon as hosts complete the program, the company said their listings will be updated to reflect that on the website.