Cruise Ship Standoff – Thousands Stranded Off Australia Coast

A cruise ship operator with six vessels stranded off Australia is calling on the nation to help evacuate thousands of crew members as the coronavirus outbreak ravages the industry.

Carnival Plc. said Thursday it needs Australia’s help to bring crew to shore so they can return to their home countries, adding the government had a duty to act on humanitarian grounds.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. also has at least five vessels off the coast, and authorities in New South Wales state are concerned the health system may be overwhelmed with new virus cases should crew be evacuated too quickly, the Australian newspaper reported.

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Many countries have become increasingly reluctant to grant entry to cruise ships after the infection of more than 700 people on a vessel berthed off Japan showed how quickly the virus could spread. Australia has barred foreign cruise ships, but has been allowing domestic vessels and some ships that were at sea when the restrictions were announced to dock and disembark passengers.

Of almost 5,000 confirmed virus cases in Australia, about 10% are related to cruise ships. Hundreds of people have become infected after passengers were allowed to disembark a ship in Sydney before test results were known.

Carnival Australia said Thursday it was seeking an “orderly process” to disembark crew members.

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