The United States Coast Guard has announced all cruise ships will be forced to stay at sea indefinitely and treat any sick passengers and crew onboard during the coronavirus outbreak.
According to The Associated Press, the new regulations were issued Sunday for ships in U.S. waters carrying more than 50 people and require vessels to provide daily updates on coronavirus caseloads or face civil penalties or criminal prosecution.
The Coast Guard also said foreign-flagged ships should evacuate the very sick to those countries instead of the U.S. If the agency does deem a transfer necessary, the cruise line would be responsible for arranging on-shore transportation and hospital beds.
“This is necessary as shore-side medical facilities may reach full capacity and lose the ability to accept and effectively treat additional critically-ill patients,” the Coast Guard said in a statement. “A potential evacuee has better access to comfortable surroundings and the medical staff onboard the foreign passenger vessel where care is already being provided.”
While most ships waiting in port or at sea only have crew members on board, officials from Carnival Cruise Line revealed there are more than 6,000 passengers sailing toward Florida, Italy and England.
U.S. President Donald Trump also recently stepped in to offer assistance to Carnival’s Holland America cruise vessels, the Zaandam and Rotterdam, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases grow and the ships have been turned away.
“They’re dying on the ship,” President Trump told the media about the situation. “I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity.”
Over the last week, several top companies in the cruise industry have extended the suspension of all voyages due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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