Coronavirus: One-Tenth of UK Military Away From Duty, One Third of French Aircraft Carrier Crew Infected

A picture shows the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on April 12, 2020, as it arrives in the southern French port of Toulon with sailors onboard infected with COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). - Fifty sailors aboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the flagship of the French navy, have contracted …
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Thousands of soldiers, sailors, and airmen in European militaries have been impacted by the coronavirus, with many confirmed troops confirmed infected and others self-isolating or otherwise unable to report for duty.

While military units and reserves across Europe have been called up to assist governments in their responses to the China coronavirus, servicemen have also been impacted in the pandemic, with 13,000 British troops out of action and a third of the whole ship’s company of France’s only aircraft carrier infected.

In the United Kingdom, a report Thursday revealed nine per cent of the whole military had been rendered unable to report for duty, either through being infected, or for being self-isolated for other reasons by the China coronavirus. 13,000 British soldiers, sailors, and airmen in all were acknowledged to have been impacted so far reports The Guardian, but fewer than 100 had actually tested positive so far, according to official figures.

Thousands of British soldiers have already been deployed to assist the National Health Service (NHS) in the coronavirus response, mainly in a logistical capacity and in setting up the NHS Nightingale field hospitals.

668 sailors on board France’s Charles de Gaulle nuclear aircraft carrier have been tested positive with coronavirus, a third of the approximately 2,000 serving onboard.

31 of those infected have now been hospitalised, with one in intensive care, LCI reports, and yet more may be found to be infected in time,  with a third of test results not yet received back from laboratory tests.

A combined team of sailors, troops, and industrial experts are presently working on disinfecting the aircraft carrier to allow operations to resume. The ship, along with an escort frigate, have been locked down in the port of Toulon after returning from exercises early last week.

Ships, which by their nature involve an incredibly dense concentration of people and communal food preparation, appear to be a particularly hospitable environment to the China coronavirus. In the early days of the global outbreak, one of the greatest hotspots of infected wasn’t a single country, but a single cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which was docked in Japan when cases onboard were discovered.

In all, 712 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus out of a total 3,771 souls aboard, although half of those two had the virus were totally asymptomatic. 12 of the infected passengers subsequently died.

Part of this may be the prevalence of ‘sanitary’ materials like steel and plastic used in ship interiors, thought to be easy to clean but actually good environments for bacteria and viruses to survive on. Traditional shipbuilding materials like wood and copper alloys like brass are hostile to viruses but fell out of favour in the last century.

It is thought the coronavirus was brought on board France’s only aircraft carrier during port visits when sailors were allowed to go ashore and meet their families, despite it being clear at the time coronavirus was spreading rapidly. President Macron placed France on lockdown just days after the port visit.

The outbreak on the Charles de Gaulle follows a similar outbreak on USS Theodore Roosevelt, one of twelve U.S. nuclear-powered carriers, which has seen nearly 600 cases abroad. The ship has been placed into reduced readiness off Guam, with only a skeleton crew kept aboard to maintain the reactor while the majority of the 4,800 crew are ashore to reduce further infection.

Last month, a Dutch submarine the HNLMS Dolfijn returned from exercises early after an outbreak of coronavirus on board.

 

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