One of the world's most proven vans has now been customised for Covid-19 transport duty.
Toyota has gone way beyond repurposing some of its production resources to making PPE for specialists at the frontline.
Recognising that conventional ambulances might not be the appropriate transport solution for seriously ill Covid-19 patients, the Japanese automotive company has hastily designed and delivered a very creative version of its HiAce.
This new conversion of the HiAce, better known locally as the vehicle which moves around more South Africans than any other, is specifically targeted at emergency medical service.
According to Toyota's engineering brief, the goal was to develop an "airborne droplet circulation control vehicle".
To achieve this, the cabin is divided by a contamination barrier, separating the driver and front-passenger seating from a larger rear patient compartment.
Toyota's engineers have also integrated an electro-mechanically operated bed hoist, which features a floor section that a bedridden patient can be rolled onto. The hoist system can also be remotely operated.
By far, the most impressive aspect of this Covid-19 HiAce conversion is how it manages the risk of viral infection within the vehicle. An extraction fan has been positioned in the cabin's separation barrier. It serves the purpose of continuously ventilating air, thereby ensuring that an appropriate flow rate of externally sourced fresh air is available.
As knowledge about the Covid-19 infection dynamic improves, medical suppliers are evolving protocols and procedures to find superior solutions in dealing with the virus. Transportation safety and efficiency is a crucial part of that.
With its "airborne droplet circulation control vehicle" HiAce variant, Toyota is delivering an ambulance service vehicle that could have a lower transmission risk for medical staff, in the task of loading and unloading patients at their homes and hospitals.
The first HiAce medical assistance vehicle has been delivered to Showa University Hospital in Tokyo, with the express aim of proving the safest possible transport of patient during the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans are to produce a greater number of these HiAce conversions, as demand from hospitals and local governments increase.
Toyota has also supplied eleven other customised HiAce vans. These vehicles feature a transparent plastic barrier between the first-row seating and remainder of the cabin, for the transport of mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients, who aren't yet completely bedridden.