Royal Navy flotilla reports Covid outbreak with 100 cases despite all sailors being vaccinated

The outbreak has not prompted a rethink of the Royal Navy’s voyage to 40 countries

Namita Singh
Wednesday 14 July 2021 08:08
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<p>File: The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is seen with the UK Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the background, during the exercise ‘Gallic strike’ off the coast of Toulon on 3 June 2021</p>

File: The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is seen with the UK Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the background, during the exercise ‘Gallic strike’ off the coast of Toulon on 3 June 2021

More than 100 cases of coronavirus have been reported aboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier and an escorting group of warships.

The vessels affected include the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier, with unconfirmed media reports saying the group of warships recently stopped off for a brief spell of shore leave in Limassol, Cyprus.

The virus has spread through the strike group’s 3,700 strength crew despite them being fully vaccinated. “As part of routine testing, a small number of crew from the Carrier Strike Group have tested positive for Covid-19,” a Royal Navy spokesman confirmed in a statement.

The incident comes despite a series of measures deployed on board Navy warships in light of the pandemic. These include the use of masks, social distancing and a track and trace system.

The outbreak has not yet prompted a rethink of the strike group’s planned voyage to 40 countries, said a Royal Navy spokesperson. “The Carrier Strike Group will continue to deliver their operational tasks and there are no effects on the deployment.”

The aircraft carrier was about a quarter of the way through its 28-week deployment when the Covid cases were detected. It is leading a strike group that includes 10 Marine Corps F35-B fighters and is currently in the Indo-Pacific.

It is the largest combined naval and air task force assembled under British command since the Falklands War, and was expected to pass through the South China Sea.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said during a press briefing on Tuesday that the first cases involving the strike group were reported on 4 July.

“Our crew are double vaccinated so you’ll be glad to know there is no serious effects on any of the crew and we will manage it,” he said, adding that going forwards he will offer support to the captain of the ship in “whatever decision he makes”.

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