Coast Guard tells cruise ships to stay at sea with sick onboard

Coronavirus

The Zaandam cruise ship, left, carrying guests with flu-like symptoms, is anchored shortly after it arrived in the bay of Panama City on Friday. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – The U.S. Coast Guard has directed cruise ships to prepare to treat any sick passengers and crew on board while being sequestered “indefinitely” offshore during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new rules outlined in a memo are required for ships in the district that covers Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Puerto Rico. They also come with a stiff warning: Any foreign-flagged vessels “that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas” should try first to medically evacuate the very sick to the countries where they are registered.

The Coast Guard says shore-side facilities are stressed and patients may be more comfortable being treated onboard.

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