Story By: Ernest Bio Bogore, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
A sailor who was on the French aircraft carrier which suffered a COVID-19 outbreak has said his superiors “played with our lives” as he claims that the captain was refused an early docking.
Sixty-hundred-and-sixty-eight of the 1,767 sailors on-board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday evening following a NATO training exercise that included allies such as a British frigate.
The ship had been on a three-month mission which included the NATO training but had not been in contact with an external element after a stopover in Brest in Brittany, in north-western France, during which a relief crew of around 50 people boarded the ship and hundreds of sailors went ashore, according to media reports.
One crew member, who has not been named in reports but had tested positive, told radio station France Bleu that the commander of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier had proposed to stop the ship’s mission when they docked in Brest from 13th to 16th March.
According to the sailor, at the time several sailors were already showing symptoms of the coronavirus and the commander would have liked to confine the crew immediately.
However, he says the proposal was refused by the Ministry of the Armed Forces, adding: “The army played with our health, our life. We should have stayed in Brest… All this lacks transparency. The distancing measures were difficult to comply with onboard.”
The ship reportedly continued on its planned voyage before docking in Toulon on southern France’s Mediterranean coast, where some of the sailors were evacuated.
The sailor who made the comments has been confined since Sunday to a military site in the Var region of France.
Navy spokesman Captain Eric Lavault responded to the claims, saying, “Officially, I deny this information. It is false. People need to understand that endangering a crew is out of the question.
“The heart of a ship’s combat system is its crew. Therefore, it is the most valuable asset.”
Chief of the Navy Staff Christophe Prazuck “ordered a command investigation to draw all the lessons learned from the management of the outbreak within the naval air group”.
Reports say that the origin of the contamination on the carrier remains a mystery.
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