The UK’s largest naval flotilla in 40 years has been struck down by a significant coronavirus outbreak.
According to The Sun (July 13), almost half the warships in the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group, led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, have been hit by positive Covid-19 cases.
The Royal Navy personnel reportedly became infected when they went ashore for a hard drinking session during a stopover at Limassol in Cyprus.
It is believed more than 100 crew members onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth have been infected with Covid-19 since the outbreak first came to light on July 04.
In addition, there are more infections in some of the six Royal Navy vessels accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden voyage to 40 countries, culminating in a transit through the South China Sea, a controversial maneuver that is deliberately designed to provoke Beijing.
The warships deployed alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth include destroyers HMS Defender and Diamond, frigates HMS Richmond and Kent, an Astute-class submarine and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.
However, HMS Diamond, a Type 45 destroyer, has had to temporarily discontinue her mission after reportedly suffering problems with its propulsion.
Altogether, the entire carrier strike group is comprised of 3,700 Royal Navy personnel.
Despite the severity of the outbreak, Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, said the infections had “not yet prompted a rethink” of the deployment.
Wallace’s hardline position underscores the British defense establishment’s determination to test China’s resolve in defending its territorial waters in the South China Sea.