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France cuts carrier deployment short amid COVID-19 outbreak fears

FS Charles de Gaulle at Toulon naval base
Photo: French defense ministry

The French defense ministry has aborted the deployment of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle amid a possible outbreak of the COVID-19 infection on board.

While the defense ministry did not reveal the number of sailors who possibly tested positive for the virus, it said that 40 crew had already been placed under “enhanced medical observation”.

FS Charles de Gaulle returned to its Toulon homeport in the Mediterranean, some two weeks earlier than initially scheduled.

The defense ministry noted that the aircraft carrier was well equipped to respond the situation with a medical team composed of about twenty doctors and nurses, a hospital room with beds, respirators, and one scanner. It also has space for the isolation and monitoring patients, in addition to the capability to transport urgent cases to land-based hospitals via helicopters.

Prior to returning home, the carrier was operating in the North Sea and as part of the French Navy’s “Foch” deployment, which started in January this year. This is not the first time COVID-19 has disturbed the carrier’s operations. In late March, FS Charles de Gaulle was forced to cancel a port visit to Denmark for fear of the spread of the pandemic.