HMS Queen Elizabeth: Fears raised Covid-19 could infect crew of Royal Navy aircraft carrier when she sails this month
SUPERCARRIER HMS Queen Elizabeth will set sail from Portsmouth later this month despite fears it could face a similar fate to French and American carriers, which had to be quarantined after hundreds of sailors were infected by Covid-19.
The £3.1bn warship is expected to leave the city’s naval base later this month for routine training around the UK ahead of her maiden operational deployment next year.
The news comes as four American nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have had to pull into port after the virus infected their crews.
Meanwhile, the French carrier Charles de Gaulle was last week ordered home after the deadly virus infected members of its ship’s company.
The Royal Navy has insisted it is taking ‘sensible’ precautions to safeguard the welfare of its sailors.
But the Senior Service declined to elaborate on what sort of measures these were and whether they included testing the ship’s company for Covid-19 before heading to sea. when quizzed by The News.
Former defence minister Kevan Jones has insisted the 65,000-tonne warship should not sail without all of her 700-strong crew being tested for the disease first.
‘The Royal Navy needs to justify why this cruise is essential at this time,’ Mr Jones told The Times. ‘In light of other nations' experiences, all the HMS Queen Elizabeth's crew must be tested before she goes to sea.’
The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, added: ‘Large-scale training that can be delayed should be.’
In a statement, a navy spokeswoman said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth has a key role to play in the defence of the United Kingdom.
‘We continue to conduct sensible and proportionate planning to ensure the welfare of our personnel is protected, while maintaining essential operational duties.’
Today saw hundred of sailors from Type 23 frigate HMS Kent leave Portsmouth for training and operations around the UK coast.
Last month Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, Captain Angus Essenhigh insisted the future naval flagship stood ready to support the nation’s efforts in battling the spread of Covid-19.
Following an audience with the Queen, Capt Essenhigh said: ‘We onboard stand by, as always, to protect and assist the people of our great nation. United we will conquer.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the oldest of two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever built for Britain.
Her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, arrived in Portsmouth for the first time at the end of last year.