WASHINGTON: Cruise ships could be converted into floating hospitals to treat cases of the novel coronavirus, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday (Mar 19).

Micky Arison, the chairman of Carnival Corp, which operates Carnival Cruise Line, “made the offer, it was a generous offer”, Trump said during a press conference.

“He said that he has some ships that would be ideally suited for what we are doing,” the president said, since the ships are “big and have a lot of rooms”.

“If we should need ships, a lot of rooms, they’ll be docked at New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco and different places.”

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Carnival is the world’s leading cruise line.

Faced with an explosion of COVID-19 cases and a need to free up hospital beds, the US government moved on Wednesday to dispatch the navy’s 1,000-room USNS Comfort hospital ship to New York, one of the worst-hit states in the country.

It is not yet clear when the ship will arrive at the New York city harbour.

As well as the Comfort, Trump has said that the USNS Mercy hospital ship would also be deployed.

The governors of California and Washington state quickly called for it to be dispatched to their shores.

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The cruise industry was plunged into crisis since the start of the pandemic, when several ships were forced to lock down, with passengers and crew prevented from disembarking after coronavirus cases were confirmed onboard.

Trump announced on Mar 13 that major cruise lines would suspend trips from US ports for 30 days in response to the pandemic.

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