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COVID19: Royal Navy flagship hit by virus after Cyprus stay

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Coronavirus has infiltrated the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, with more than 100 crew members infected after its stopover in Limassol.

Britain’s largest warship docked in Cyprus on 30 June until 5 July spearheading the largest UK peacetime deployment in a generation, Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21)

HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomed dignitaries on board, such as President Nicos Anastasiades.

Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, said the outbreak had not yet prompted a rethink of the carrier strike group’s voyage to 40 countries.

But he said he would support the captain of HMS Queen Elizabeth “whatever decision he makes”.

As well as around 100 personnel on the carrier, a number of crew members on four accompanying British ships also caught COVID-19.

There are 3,700 personnel across the entire carrier strike group, including the 1,600 on the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The first cases were identified around 4 July when the ship was in Cyprus.

The Sun, which broke the story, said the sailors became infected when they went ashore during a five-day stopover in Limassol.

Wallace told a press briefing on Tuesday: “Our crew are double vaccinated, so you’ll be glad to know there is no serious effects on any of the crew, and we will manage it.

“I will offer support to the captain to make the decision – what is right for his ship…but this is not like the early days of the problems with COVID.

“It is understood; we know how to deal with it.”

“We are not going to get in a situation where we put anyone at risk. First and foremost, my duty is to protect the crew, and I will stand by the captain if he has to make a different decision. We are not planning any major changes.”

In more bad news for the Royal Navy, a Type 45 destroyer, HMS Diamond, which is part of the carrier strike group, has had to come alongside after suffering problems with its propulsion – an issue that has impacted all ships of the same class.

Other British warships deployed with HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden voyage include destroyer HMS Defender, frigates HMS Richmond and Kent, an Astute-class submarine, and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

Vessels from allied nations are also part of the group, comprising Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and American Arleigh Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “As part of routine testing, a small number of crew from the Carrier Strike Group have tested positive for COVID-19.

The spokesperson said only a small number of crew tested positive, and measures including regular tests, social distancing and a test and trace system have been put in place.

“The Carrier Strike Group will continue to deliver their operational tasks, and there are no effects on the deployment.”

Captain Steve Moorhouse urged the crews to take daily tests and try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible, for example, avoiding going for dinner all at the same time. (source UK media)