US Congress opens investigation into Carnival Corporation’s handling of Coronavirus

The US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has sent a letter to Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald informing him that an investigation has been opened into the cruise company’s handling of Coronavirus outbreaks aboard its ships.

The letter requested various documents while outlining concern on Carnival’s handling of the incidents of Coronavirus outbreaks. Congress’ chief concerns appears to be the vulnerability of cruise ships to the spreading of contagious illnesses.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation

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The letter notes that “according to the CDC [US Centres for Disease Control], half of the cruise ships that had norovirus outbreaks in 2019 were Carnival Corporation owned ships.”

It should be noted, however, that Carnival Corporation and its nine cruise lines account for half of the entire cruise industry in terms of market share.

The letter further states that the Coronavirus outbreaks aboard Diamond Princess in Japan and Grand Princess in the United States were just two of nine COVID-19 infections aboard Carnival Corporation ships, resulting in more than 1,500 confirmed infections and at least 39 deaths.

The Committee states that as cruise ships “are a fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases due to their environmental conditions and physical structure,” more must be done to ensure passenger safety moving forward.

The letter states that cruise lines will inevitably be allowed to sail again in future, but that “when that happens, more robust health precautions and new social distancing protocols will be paramount to preventing the re-emergence and spread of new COVID-19 infections.”

The US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure says that “the reality of the COVID-19pandemic will place a renewed emphasis on public health and passenger safety, but frankly that has not been seen up to this point” from Carnival Corporation.

Diamond Princess was the first cruise ship to be hit by a large-scale Coronavirus outbreak

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It then alleges that none of Carnival Corporation’s nine cruise lines brands have “mentioned a single word about COVID-19, coronavirus, or the precautions these cruise lines intend to take once the CDC lifts its ‘No Sail Order’ for cruise lines,” on the homepage of their webistes.

However, all nine cruise lines, and indeed every major cruise line in the world, has a Coronavirus-related tag at the top of each of their homepages informing passengers of the latest travel and health advisories, while Carnival Corporation has been forthcoming about the measures being put in place to protect cruise passengers.

“Throughout this COVID-19 situation that has now turned into a global pandemic, we have implemented higher and higher levels of screening, monitoring and sanitation protocols to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we serve,” Carnival Cruise Line, the flagship brand of Carnival Corporation said in a March 13th press release.

On the same day, Christine Duffy, the president of Carnival Cruise Lines, told passengers in an email of new pre-boarding screening and sanitation measures aboard its cruise ships to combat the potential spread of the virus, while Carnival Corp-owned Princess Cruises was one of the first cruise lines in the world to suspend its global operations.

The US Congress says that Carnival Corporation’s ships account for half of all Coronavirus cases on cruise ships (but the cruise company account for half of the global cruise market)

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The letter further alleges, based on media reports, that Carnival Corporation was aware of the threats to some of its ships from Coronavirus and did not take appropriate action, which may have led to greater infections and the spread of the disease.

“Even a senior CDC official who leads the CDC’s cruise ship task force was quoted as saying she had a hard time believing that Carnival was simply ‘a victim of happenstance’,” the letter adds.

In light of this, the committee says that it would like to gain a better understanding of how Carnival intends to protect passengers and crew once vessels resume sailing, and requests that it provide “all the information Carnival Corporation cruise lines had, and when, regarding potential infections, public health implications, and possible exposure of its passengers and crew to COVID-19, as well as the decisions made by Carnival Corporation and its various affiliated lines regarding the health and safety of their passengers and crew.”

Carnival has two weeks to provide:

  • A copy of the fleet-wide outbreak prevention and response plans.

  • All records, from all employees, referencing COVID-19 or coronavirus at Carnival Corp.’s office in Miami.

  • All records prepared, written, or approved by any ship’s officer, or medical or health care related staff that reference or discuss COVID-19 or coronavirus.

  • All communications between crew members, ship’s officers, medical staff with the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Department of Public Health or the Florida Department of Public Health from all Carnival Corp. ships discussing or referencing COVID-19 or coronavirus.

  • All correspondence between Carnival Corp. employees at the Carnival headquarters and those onboard ships.

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