Coronavirus outbreak sidelines US Navy warship

26 March 2020, 17:43

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A rapid coronavirus outbreak has sidelined a flagship US aircraft carrier after up to 23 sailors tested positive for the disease.

It comes just two days after Pentagon officials confirmed three sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive for Covid-19.

Earlier on Thursday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly confirmed "several" more cases onboard the ship but he did not give a specific number.

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There are roughly 5,000 sailors on the vessel but only 800 testing kits available, according to LBC's Washington correspondent Simon Marks.

Mr Modly told the media: "We are in the process now of testing 100 per cent of the crew of that ship to ensure that we're able to contain whatever spread might have occurred."

A Covid-19 outbreak has sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt
A Covid-19 outbreak has sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Picture: PA

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The Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier has been forced to pull into the US island territory of Guam in the Western Pacific after operating in the Philippine Sea.

Mr Modly then emphasised "that the ship is operationally capable" to continue on its mission if it is required to do so.

“The ship is pulling into Guam; it will be pier side, no one on the crew will be allowed to leave anywhere into Guam other than on pier side," he added.

"And we are already starting the process of testing 100 per cent of the crew to ensure that we’ve got that contained."

The Navy Secretary previously said a number of the sailors who tested positive for the virus had been flown off the ship and are "currently doing fine" because their symptoms - such as aches, pains and sore throats - are "very mild".

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The flagship aircraft carrier has been forced into port at Guam
The flagship aircraft carrier has been forced into port at Guam. Picture: PA

LBC's Washington correspondent Simon Marks said it was a "worrying development for military figures" who now have to factor in "possible coronavirus outbreaks to any sort of military deployment" around the world.

He added: "It's emblematic of the difficulties the United States has had at getting testing kits distributed here on land, much less to members of the armed forces spread, as they are, throughout the wider world."

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Although the carrier was last in port in Vietnam, it remains unclear where the sailors initially contracted the virus.

In the US, as of Thursday morning, 280 military personnel have now tested positive for Covid-19, while the Defense Department has been hit by nearly 600 cases.

The flagship vessel was last in port in Vietnam
The flagship vessel was last in port in Vietnam. Picture: PA

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump publicly clashed with his administration's top infectious diseases expert on the effectiveness of a malaria drug to treat coronavirus.

On Thursday, Mr Trump called attention to the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, saying it would be made available immediately to treat patients with Covid-19.

He said: "It's been around for a long time so we know if things don't go as planned it's not going to kill anybody."

But Dr Anthony Fauci - who was not present on Thursday when Mr Trump spoke about the drug - got straight to the point when asked about it on Friday.

"No," he said. "The answer ... is no. The information that you're referring to specifically is anecdotal," Dr Fauci added firmly.

"It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can't make any definitive statement about it."

On Monday, Senator Rand Paul tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the first member of the Senate to report a case of the disease.

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