Tilbury cruise ships 'could become overflow hospitals'

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image source, Saga Group
image captionThe ships docked in Tilbury earlier this week after being turned away from their usual port in Southampton due to limited space

Two dormant cruise ships could become overflow hospitals for coronavirus patients, their owner has said.

Saga Group's Spirit of Discovery and Saga Sapphire are docked in Tilbury in Essex following the cancellation of worldwide cruises.

The owner is willing to offer the ships as hospitals, according to the Local Democracy Reporter Service.

Saga Group is understood to be in discussions with the government. The company has been contacted for comment.

On Monday, the health secretary said empty hotels could help ease the pressure on busy hospitals.

Combined the two ships have more than 2,000 cabins.

Labour councillor Steve Liddiard, who represents the Tilbury St Chads ward, said: "I understand this has been happening in a number of countries and if things get that serious - and we hope it won't - then it sounds like a wonderful opportunity.

"Specific facilities would be needed such as piped in oxygen and I don't know how practical that is on a cruise ship.

"Hopefully the costs of providing the ships could be met by the NHS but let's hope that it doesn't get to that."

In Italy, global cruise operator MSC Cruises has offered to help make up for the lack of beds inside hospitals using one of their ships.

In the US President Trump announced yesterday that the Navy would deploy two hospital ships to the east and west coast.

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