At least 668 servicemen from the Charles de Gaulle carrier group have tested positive for coronavirus, the French defense ministry has said. The country’s only aircraft carrier was forced to return to port due to the outbreak.
“As of the evening of April 14, 1,767 sailors from the carrier strike group have been tested,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
“Some 668 have returned positive.”
Over 30 sailors have been hospitalized with Covid-19 at a military hospital in Toulon, including one serviceman in an intensive care unit, the military added.
The coronavirus outbreak abroad the aircraft carrier was confirmed last week, when dozens of sailors tested positive for Covid-19. The vessel was forced to cut short its Mediterranean Sea mission, returning to its home port of Toulon on Sunday.
The French military said that the “vast majority” of the coronavirus tests were performed on crew members of the Charles de Gaulle, suggesting concerns that other ships within the carrier group might have been contaminated as well.
France is not the first country to suffer a major coronavirus outbreak aboard a military vessel. Last month, the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was forced to return to port and more than 4,000 servicemen were isolated after Covid-19 was detected. Nearly 600 sailors tested positive for the disease, and one died from it after spending days in intensive care.
Meanwhile, two out of four US Navy personnel currently assigned to the French vessel have tested positive for Covid-19, the US military said Wednesday. The American sailors were on board as part of an exchange program.
France is among the five worst-affected states from the coronavirus outbreak, with the latest official figures showing a total death toll of 17,167, and over 130,000 confirmed cases of the disease.