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French Aircraft Carrier Returns To Port After Suspected COVID-19 Cases Found Aboard

The French navy's flagship, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, is returning to home port after dozens of crew members showed signs of COVID-19, the armed services ministry announced Wednesday.

In a statement, the ministry said "around forty sailors are today under close medical observation. They are showing symptoms consistent with possible COVID-19 infection."

"The first cases showed symptoms recently," the ministry said. "There are no signs of aggravated cases among the patients."

Following joint exercises in the Baltic Sea with other European navies, the carrier was originally scheduled to return to the Mediterranean port of Toulon on April 23, but following the likely cases aboard, it was ordered back early, according to the website Naval News.

A screening team will be dispatched to the carrier on Wednesday to investigate and to try to prevent the shipboard spread of the virus, the website said.

The Charles de Gaulle, commissioned in 2001, has 1,760 personnel on board.

The statement from France's Ministry of the Armed Forces comes after the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered carrier, experienced a similar outbreak.

The Roosevelt's skipper, Capt. Brett Crozier, was subsequently relieved of his command after a letter he wrote that was critical of the Navy's handling of the outbreak became public.

Days after Crozier was sacked, Navy Secretary Thomas Modly addressed the ship's crew in Guam, calling their former commander "stupid or naive" for allowing the letter to leak to the media. Modly's address, in which he acknowledged that Crozier was popular among the crew, only furthered the controversy, leading to Modly's resignation on Tuesday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.