Carnival offers cruise ships as temporary hospitals

Cruise ships from Carnival Corp. & plc are being offered for use as temporary hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s largest cruise company announced on Thursday.

Miami-based Carnival’s brands include Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.

The announcement is a welcomed contrast to previous news accounts about sinking share prices and passengers on Princess being quarantined after the coronavirus outbreak. Miami’s trio of major cruise companies—Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean—have all stopped cruises for a month at the request of President Trump.

Shares of Carnival (NYSE: CCL) were trading up 7 percent to nearly $10 in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday after the announcement.

The cruise industry is likely to be part of the federal aid program for an array of travel and hospitality businesses. A key reason for federal support is the cruise industry supports over 421,000 American jobs and contributes nearly $53 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

Cruise ships are capable of being quickly provisioned to serve as hospitals with up to 1,000 hospital rooms that can treat patients suffering from less critical, non-COVID-19 conditions, Carnival said. Staterooms can be quickly converted to install and connect remote patient monitoring devices over the ship’s high-speed network—providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation and video monitoring capabilities. The rooms also have bathroom facilities, private balconies with access to sun and fresh air, as well as isolation capabilities, as needed.

Ships can provide up to seven intensive care units in the ship’s medical center, equipped with central cardiac monitoring, ventilators and other key medical devices and capabilities, Carnival said.

There has been major concern about whether the U.S. will run out of ICUs if the virus keeps spreading.

The cruise ships would be berthed at a pier near the community in need and operated by the ship’s crew, with all maritime operations, food and beverage, and cleaning services provided by crew members on the ship, Carnival said. Medical services would be provided by governments or hospitals.

As part of the temporary hospital offer, interested parties would be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship’s operations while in port, Carnival said.

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