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What was initially a suspicion of Covid-19 has now been confirmed. Three sailors from the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle were evacuated by helicopter on Thursday "on a preventive basis" after confirming that there are 50 positive cases of coronavirus aboard this military ship.
"The results of the 66 tests carried out concluded the presence of 50 positive cases aboard the Charles de Gaulle," the French Defense Ministry announced in a statement Friday, two days after revealing that there were suspected cases of Covid-19 in that aircraft carrier.
A medical team - made up of two epidemiologist doctors, a biosecurity expert and a doctor tasked with conducting tests on sailors - moved by helicopter on April 8 to the aircraft carrier, which is navigating the Atlantic Ocean near the Strait of Gibraltar bound for France.
"The objective is to identify the contamination circuit and support the protocol by limiting the spread of the virus," added the Defense Ministry. At the moment, there has been no deterioration in the health status of the crew of that French aircraft carrier.
The three sailors were evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon airport (Portugal) and later transferred in a medical Falcon 900 to the Sainte-Anne military hospital in Toulon, where the Charles de Gaulle military base is located on the Mediterranean coast in the southeast France.
The evacuations were carried out as a precaution and to "maintain the medical capabilities of the aircraft carrier" in the event of possible complications in the detected cases. At the moment, there are no serious cases among the 1,760 occupants of the aircraft carrier.
The infected have been confined in an area of the aircraft carrier previously enabled for it and the use of face masks on board has become widespread to avoid further infections. "The health of the crew is the priority of the Ministry of Defense and the controls," the former stressed in the statement.
The aircraft carrier was sailing in Atlantic waters at the height of Portugal when the first suspected cases of coronavirus were detected. Some 40 sailors had symptoms compatible with a possible Covid-19 infection a few days ago, but had no tests on board to confirm this. Therefore, they had to send an outside medical team to carry out the tests.
The Charles de Gaulle left Toulon on January 21 , when no case of Covid-19 in France had yet been officially detected. The mystery continues about how the virus was shipped onto the carrier and who is the ship's patient zero . Since March 15, the ship had not made any stops and had received no visitors on board.
The contagion is suspected to have occurred precisely during the aircraft carrier's stopover in Brest , northwestern France, between March 13-15. At that time, the French government had not yet decreed the confinement of the population, but had already ordered the closure of bars and restaurants and recommended that the French stay home. The first round of the municipal elections in France was held on March 15. On March 16 the schools closed their doors. It was not until March 17 that quarantine was decreed throughout the country.
After detecting the suspected cases of coronavirus in the ship, it was decided to advance the return to Toulon of the aircraft carrier, which was originally scheduled to end its mission on April 23. It is expected to arrive in port early next week.
The Charles de Gaulle, which has participated in recent months in a military operation in the eastern Mediterranean and in naval maneuvers in the Baltic Sea , is not the only ship affected by the coronavirus. The epidemic has also reached several tourist cruises and the United States' Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.
Defense Minister Florence Parly has reiterated in recent days that the spread of the pandemic will not prevent the French Army from carrying out its missions . The military also actively participates in France in the fight against the coronavirus within the so - called Operation Resilience . They offer logistical help and support to local governments and medical personnel.
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