According to the United States Coast Guard: Cruise ships should be ready to serve sick passengers and crew with Covid-19 and other flu symptoms on board at sea. They claim that medical evacuations are contributing to limit the onshore health care resources in the southeastern United States, Bloomberg reports.
Foreign-flagged vessels with more than 50 people on board should plan to treat passengers for an “indefinite period of time,” according to a March 29 memo from the Seventh Coast Guard District Responsibility Area, which includes Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and Florida, home to the world’s busiest cruise port in Miami.
The Coast Guard is not saying it will reject the evacuations or that it will not allow ships to dock. The notice applies to cruise ships flying foreign flags, virtually throughout the industry. Three Carnival Corp. ships, including two with ill passengers, are sailing to Fort Lauderdale and will arrive in days.
“This is necessary as medical facilities on the coast can reach full capacity and lose the ability to effectively accept and treat critically ill patients,” said the memo, which was signed by Rear Admiral E.C. Jones, commander of the Seventh District.
Two Carnival-owned Holland America ships would arrive in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, one with ill passengers. Executives pleaded with local authorities on Tuesday to allow them to dock for humanitarian reasons, saying two people need an emergency medical evacuation. Another Carnival-owned ship with sick passengers on board, the Coral Princess, was scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday requesting the same.
President Donald Trump at a White House press conference said the passengers included Canadian and British citizens, as well as Americans, and that officials were mobilizing to help, including sending medical teams on board.
“We are removing the Canadians and giving them to the Canadian authorities,” said the president. “The same with the UK, but we have to help people, they are in big trouble.”
Vessels requesting the so-called medevac for flu-like symptoms should speak to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers in Miami or San Juan, according to the memo. He said they must explain the circumstances, and there must be confirmed space in the hospital for evacuation to be considered.
Foreign-flagged vessels, including those registered in the Bahamas, must first seek help in the jurisdiction where they are flagged, according to the Coast Guard.
All vessels in the US territorial seas must immediately report sick passengers and crew and deaths, as well as provide daily updates on the sick. If they don’t immediately report illness or death, they could be prosecuted, according to the memo.
According to a statement by Carnival on Wednesday, Holland America’s ships were expected to reach the limit of US waters. USA On Thursday morning, but local authorities have not yet given Holland America the go-ahead to land on concern about the impact on public health. According to Holland America, 45 guests are currently “mildly ill” and will remain isolated on the ship until they recover, even if the others disembark. The company said “less than 10” people need immediate critical care on the ground.