Following the US Navy’s aircraft carrier Covid-19 debacle, France is taking no chances.
The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier docked in the southern French port of Toulon early Sunday with fifty cases of Covid-19 on board. All personnel will go into a two-week quarantine, and the vessel will be disinfected, RFI reported.
The nuclear-powered carrier, the flagship of the French navy, returned to port 11 days earlier than planned because of the coronavirus breakout, the Armed Forces Ministry said.
Three sailors have already been evacuated as a “precaution,” and the others will be transferred to hospital.
The carrier had 1,700 people on board, with an additional 200 in a frigate sailing with it, the report said.
They will all be put into a two week quarantine in military barracks before being allowed to have contact with their families.
Everyone, including officers, will be tested for Covid-19, the report said.
“Our goal is to protect all our sailors, but also their family and the French people, by deploying unprecedented measures,” said Christine Ribbe, spokesperson for he Mediterranean maritime prefecture.
The goal is for the operation to be “the most human, the most coordinated, the most coordinated, but also the most effect” as possible, she added.
The origin of the virus on the carrier is not yet known.
The Charles de Gaulle had been on mission since 21 January, spending several weeks in the Mediterranean as part of the French contribution to the international anti-jihadist operation in Iraq and Syria, the report said.
It then crossed into the north sea for security operations.
It had had no contact with anyone or anything outside the vessel since a stop at the port of Brest on 15 March. Three weeks later the first cases were detected, the report said.
The carrier itself will be disinfected starting Tuesday, to allow it to get back to work as soon as possible, according to the Armed Forces Ministry.
In addition to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, three other US Navy aircraft carriers have reported positive cases of Covid-19, NBC reported.
They include the Bremerton, Wash.-based USS Nimitz and USS Carl Vinson; and the USS Ronald Reagan in Japan. And experts expect it’s likely just a matter of time before other carriers and ships see infections.
Capt. Brett Crozier, who commanded the Roosevelt, was removed from his job after a letter he wrote about the situation on his ship was sent to people outside his chain of command last week, Military.com reported.
Then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly on Thursday fired Crozier, calling the leak of the letter an “uncharacteristic lack of judgment.”
Modly resigned following a visit (costing taxpayers more than US$243,000 for the 35-hour round trip on a Gulfstream 550) to the Roosevelt to deliver a bizarre, profanity-laced speech in which he suggested the Crozier was “too naïve or too stupid.”
The remarks became public and sparked major backlash, with former officials and lawmakers calling for Modly’s head.
The French Navy has obviously heeded this lesson, facing the Covid-19 crisis head-on.