Royal Navy is 'putting lives at risk' after ignoring coronavirus fears at major training base, staff warn
WORRIED workers at the Royal Navy’s largest training base have accused the military of ‘putting lives at risk’ by ‘disregarding’ their coronavirus concerns.
Civilian staff at HMS Collingwood, in Fareham, say the Senior Service has repeatedly ignored warnings over breaches in safety guidelines designed to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Officials at the navy have defended the base and insisted training at Collingwood was ‘fully risk-assessed’ and kept under ‘constant review’.
But insiders at the military establishment have denied this and claimed rule breaches were ‘happening all the time’.
Staff have warned groups of young sailors are being taught in packed classrooms that are ‘breeding grounds’ for coronavirus.
Multiple sources at the base have told The News that trainees are being told to delete the NHS track and trace app, which is designed to alert people to self-isolate if exposed to someone infect with the virus.
The navy has previously said this was a claim it did not ‘recognise’ but offered no further comment when approached by The News last month.
The latest concerns come after an instructor leading a phase two weapon engineering course at Collingwood reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday.
Despite the diagnosis, a source warned students who had been with the instructor weren’t told to self-isolate but instead sent to continue training with another tutor.
‘This kind of incident is happening all the time,’ said one insider, who asked not to be named. ‘The way the Royal Navy command are dealing with Covid-19 within HMS Collingwood is a disgrace.
‘They are putting many people at risk and are not following government guidelines.
‘The Royal Navy is allowing the young trainees to travel all over the country to visit family at the weekends and as such putting the instructors at risk. Instructors have asked for this not to happen but have not been listened to.
‘The RN are refusing to reduce class sizes even though the civilian instructors have repeatedly asked for it to allow social distancing.
‘The class sizes are at a maximum to fit into classrooms with no space between students. Some classrooms are windowless and warm, which is a breeding ground for Covid-19, particularly with the trainees crammed in them.’
Similar concerns have been raised to The News by personnel at HMS Nelson, in Portsmouth, and at HMS Sultan, in Gosport, over the past few weeks.
Responding to the latest claims at HMS Collingwood, a spokeswoman for the Royal Navy said: ‘HMS Collingwood is continuing to undertake essential training of its personnel in order to maintain the Royal Navy’s operational capability, fulfil its operational outputs and national security responsibilities.
‘This means trained personnel will be ready to respond to the ongoing and ever-developing Covid-19 situation while concurrently providing resilience as its support increases and while maintaining key defence outputs.
’Training is fully risk-assessed and is kept under continual review.
‘We will not hesitate to take appropriate action against any personnel who break the PHE regulations/policy or who fails to meet the high standards we set for ourselves.’
The situation enraged naval top brass and prompted an investigation by the Senior Service.