The Charles de Gaulle is the second officially contaminated aircraft carrier in the world, after the American aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, in the Pacific.

Over a third of seafarers infected

More than a third of the sailors of the French aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle have tested positive for Covid-19 since their early return to France on Sunday, after the discovery of fifty cases of coronavirus on board, according to a report provisional published, Wednesday, April 15, by the Ministry of the Armed Forces. The 1,900 seafarers were placed in solitary confinement for 14 days before being able to return to their homes.

“As of April 14 in the evening, 1,767 sailors of the carrier strike group were tested. The vast majority of these tests concern sailors of the aircraft carrier at this stage. 668 were positive, ”details the ministry. Among them, "31 are now hospitalized at the Sainte-Anne army training hospital in Toulon (south), including one in intensive care," he said. This temporary assessment is set to swell further because "30% of these tests have not yet delivered their results", and "the test campaign is still in progress", according to the ministry.

In parallel, "the disinfection operations of aircraft and surface buildings have started", carried out by the armies in association with industrialists, underlines the ministry. High temperature steam and anti-virus product will be used.

"The army played with our health, our life"

The origin of the contamination of the aircraft carrier is not yet known. The crew had not been in contact with an outside element since a stopover in Brest from March 13 to 15. The first confined sailors, ten, were around March 10, according to some sources. The ship had been refueled by the Somme, and could have been contaminated even before the stopover on March 13-15 which precipitated the contagion, when the sailors were in town. The French general staff first followed its officers who, again in early April, announced to the sailors of the ship that the mission was continuing despite the numerous cases of Covid-19 detected on board.

Testimonies from sailors and relatives raise questions on how to manage the crisis on board, on condition of anonymity. The Médiapart site claims to have identified two cases of sailors presenting symptoms without being confined. "From April 3 or 4, the situation worsened very quickly, according to a relative of a sailor. According to information from Mediapart, not all precautions have been taken on board in order to limit the spread of the virus.

France Bleu Provence, for its part, published the testimony of a crew member, father of the family, tested positive. "The army has played with our health, our life," he said, assuring that the commander of the aircraft carrier would have proposed to interrupt the mission in Brest, when several sailors he said were already showing symptoms of coronavirus. Still according to this anonymous sailor, this proposal was refused by the ministry.

“The Covid-19 changes our plans and our operations”

Continuing military operations in the Sahel, in France or at sea, this is the priority set by President Macron for the armies. But at what cost when the coronavirus epidemic gains ranks ?

This is the first time in the armies.

“Does the Covid-19 change our plans and our operations, yes, sometimes. But does it deflect us from our objectives, no, "assured Minister Florence Parly on April 10 before the senators of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces.

Kelly Donaldson for DayNewsWorld