French Navy Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle Returns Home After Suspected COVID-19 Outbreak

French Navy’s sole aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is heading back from her current deployment after suspected coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases on board, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said in a statement on April 8.

According to the statement, around 40 sailors on board the carrier are under enhanced medical observation and isolation after showing symptoms consistent with possible COVID-19 infection. The statement added that these first symptoms have appeared recently and all sailors are in a stable condition.

Charles de Gaulle is currently deployed in the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Foch mission which started on January 21. The aircraft carrier was in its phase of return towards the Mediterranean. With the new development, the vessel is now expected to return to its homeport of Toulon Naval Base earlier than initially scheduled, which was on April 23.

The aircraft carrier has a medical unit equipped with ventilators onboard. The health measures already implemented onboard have been reinforced, according to the Ministry.

The statement said that the Navy and the aircraft carrier command are closely monitoring the development. A screening team with test kits will be sent on board the aircraft carrier in order to investigate the cases that have arisen and to prevent the spread of the virus onboard the ship.

According to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, the aircraft carrier has robust capabilities for handling and monitoring the evolution of cases, including in the event of worsening of the symptoms.

This includes:

+ 1 medical platform with a medical team comprising around twenty caregivers (doctors, nurses, surgeons);
+ Dedicated facilities: One hospital room with a dozen beds, respirators, one scanner; as well as 100 containment spaces to isolate and monitor patients;
+ Means of evacuation by helicopters, at short notice, to a land-based hospital (in case of aggravation).

The organization onboard the carrier has been adapted to continue the mission while ensuring the health of sailors. Barrier measures and precautionary measures have also been reinforced and continue to be strictly applied:

+ The sailors of the aircraft carrier carries out twice a day cleaning of the common spaces, insisting on the disinfection of the ramps/handles/taps and in the common living areas and disinfect the workstations, telephones and shared computers after each use;
+ Daily reminders are made and vigilance is maintained on the barrier gestures to be respected;
+ The number of meetings and participants has been reduced, gatherings in certain areas of common life have been limited;
+ Masks are distributed as a preventive measure to all personnel who may experience symptoms, especially coughing. These personnel are monitored twice a day by medical personnel.

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