The French Ministry of Defence has announced that 50 personnel aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus as the vessel heads home to France.
At least three of the crew members have been airlifted from the carrier and taken to Portugal before being transported to a hospital in the city of Toulon. A team of two epidemiologists have also been sent to the aircraft carrier and are studying the spread of the virus on board.
The famously unreliable vessel, which boasts a crew of around 1,200 and serves as the flagship of the French navy, is currently in the Atlantic ocean and heading back toward its home port in Toulon, French newspaper Le Figaro reports.
“Following the announcement of a suspected Covid-19 case among the crew of the aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle, a medical team from the army health service has been sent on board,” the ministry said in a statement Friday.
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“No deterioration in the state of health of seafarers on board is observed at present,” the ministry added and said the evacuation of the three sailors was a precautionary measure. Along with the 1,200 crew, 560 members of the French general staff are also aboard the vessel.
The confirmed cases came after the United States aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt saw an outbreak in coronavirus cases late last month while at sea.
Captain Brett Crozier was removed from the command of the vessel by Navy Secretary Thomas Modly last week after a memo he wrote about the viral outbreak leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Crozier later tested positive for the Chinese virus himself but it unclear if he had been showing any symptoms at the time the memo was written.
Earlier this week, U.S. General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 416 American sailors have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, while David Norquist, the deputy secretary of defence, said the virus would not be a short-term problem for the armed forces.