Built within a 6.1-metre-long shipping container, the intensive care pod contains beds and facilities – including ventilators, monitors, intravenous fluid stands and syringe drivers – for two patients.

"From a design point of view, containers have constraints: their dimensions cannot be changed," Ratti told Dezeen. "So CURA has required quite a bit of work to make sure that everything would fit inside them and that doctors would be comfortable with intubating patients inside it."

Ratti believes that the shipping-container pods combine the benefits of quickly assembled hospital tents with the safety of permanent isolation wards, which have ventilation systems that generate negative pressure.

"A standard hospital for infectious diseases needs special air treatment systems," explained Ratti.

"According to Chinese Covid-19 guidelines, it should guarantee at least 12 air changes per hour, sanitise exhausts with an ozone filter or an absolute filter and make sure that there is negative pressure inside each room, so that the virus cannot leak – negative pressure allows so-called 'bio-containment'," he continued.

"Such conditions are almost impossible to achieve in most tents or makeshift hospitals, which end up putting the lives of healthcare professionals at risk," he added.

"Using shipping containers, each with its own air treatment and filtering system, it is possible to make CURA pods as fast to mount as a tent hospital, but as safe to operate as a proper infectious disease ward."

Ratti thinks that shipping containers have several further advantages over other prefabricated structures, as they can be moved to areas most impacted by the pandemic and require little set-up time.

"We have seen that Covid-19 infections move in waves," he said. "First Wuhan, then Milan, Madrid, New York have been the background of a shifting battleground."

"Shipping containers can be moved from city to city and installed faster than any other prefabricated structure," he continued. "CURA pods come already furnished with all medical equipment – beds, monitors, ventilators, gases, vacuum, etc. – and can be deployed and moved in a matter of hours.

"Even the most streamlined prefabricated hospital requires a few days of installation and testing before being fully functional."

The CURA pods are designed to work as single units or combined with inflatable tunnels to create larger field hospitals. At the temporary Officine Grandi Riparazioni  hospital, the unit is being used as a stand-alone intensive care ward.

"The site in Turin is a large, temporary hospital aimed primarily at patients who need sub-intensive care," said Ratti. "However, the conditions of Covid-19 patients can quickly degenerate – that's where CURA pods can provide intensive care."