Miami accepts 13 sick cruise ship crew members

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Sick crew members from two cruise ships are transported to shore in two smaller boats in Miami on March 26

Sick crew members from two cruise ships are transported to shore in two smaller boats in Miami on March 26 (AFP Photo/CHANDAN KHANNA)

Miami (AFP) - Thirteen crew members from two ships operated by Italy's Costa Cruises line were allowed ashore in Miami after experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms, port officials said Thursday.

The 13 crew members -- six from the Costa Magica and seven from the Costa Favulosa -- were showing symptoms of bronchitis and pneumonia, similar to those of people infected with the COVID-19 virus, officials said.

"Upon consultation with the ship's doctors, local, state and federal health agencies, it was determined as many as 13 crew members between both ships may need transportation ashore," officials at the Port of Miami said in a statement.

The patients were transported to shore aboard small covered boats, as the cruise ships had been denied permission to dock and were ordered to remain three miles (five kilometers) offshore.

US Coast Guard and emergency personnel in full-body protective gear, including face masks and rubber gloves, helped move the sick crew members from the boats to infectious disease units in local hospitals.

There are nearly 1,000 people, all crew members, aboard each ship. Around 30 of them are sick with flu-like symptoms - but lacking tests, there is no confirmation that they are infected with the COVID-19 virus.

The Costa Magica has room for nearly 3,500 passengers, while the Costa Favulosa has room for nearly 3,800 - but the passengers were all dropped off in mid-March on the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Several of the passengers presented coronavirus-like symptoms once they landed.

Since then ports across the Caribbean have denied the two cruise ships permission to dock.