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French aircraft carrier heads home early. Possible 40 COVID19 cases on board.

FILE PHOTO: French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle


PARIS (Reuters) – France’s flagship aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle is returning to its home port early after about 40 crew members showed signs of COVID-19 symptoms, the armed forces ministry said on Wednesday.

The personnel were under strict medical observation on board the nuclear-powered carrier, which had most recently been taking part in exercises with northern European navies in the Baltic Sea.

“The first cases showed symptoms recently,” the ministry said in a statement. “There are no signs of aggravated cases among the patients.”

The aircraft carrier would dock in Toulon, southern France, in the next few days, a spokesman for the head of the armed forces told Reuters. It had been due back on April 23.

The Charles de Gaulle set sail for the eastern Mediterranean on Jan. 21 to support French military operations against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, before deploying to the Atlantic and then the Baltic.

It has 1,760 personnel on board.

A team equipped to carry out tests for coronavirus infection was on Wednesday due to land on the vessel, which is equipped with its own intensive care facilities.

Last week, the U.S. Navy relieved the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt’s captain of his command, after the leak of a scathing letter he sent to superiors that sought stronger measures for curbing a coronavirus outbreak aboard his vessel.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Tangi Salaun; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Giles Elgood

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