FILE PHOTO: French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is moored at the port of Limassol, Cyprus, February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Stefanos Kouratzis/File Photo
PARIS (Reuters) – Fifty crew members aboard France’s sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, have tested positive for the new coronavirus and parts of the ship have been put in lockdown, the armed forces ministry said on Friday.
A ministry statement said that three sailors had been evacuated by air to a military hospital in Toulon, southern France, home port of the carrier.
A team equipped to carry out tests for coronavirus infection boarded the vessel on Wednesday just after the armed forces ministry had reported signs of COVID-19 symptoms among 40 crew members.
“The results of 66 tests showed 50 cases of COVID-19 aboard the Charles de Gaulle. There is no deterioration of the sailors’ medical condition at this stage,” the ministry said, adding that the evacuation of three of those sailors occurred Thursday.
The aircraft carrier, which is equipped with its own intensive care facilities, has 1,760 personnel on board.
The nuclear-powered carrier, which had most recently been taking part in exercises with northern European navies in the Baltic Sea, is continuing its journey to Toulon, where it is due to dock in the coming days.
“While awaiting the early return of the aircraft carrier in Toulon … extra measures aimed at protecting the crew and containing the spread of the virus have been put in place,” the ministry added, adding that all crew members must now wear face masks.
Last week the captain of U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was relieved of his command after the leak of a scathing letter he sent to superiors to call for stronger measures to curb a coronavirus outbreak on his vessel.
Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Goodman