Aircraft carrier stays in port for another day following Covid-19 outbreak

The departure of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth Naval Base for training exercises at sea has been postponed for the second day in a row after a number of crew members tested positive for Covid-19.

The £3 billion warship was set to leave Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday afternoon for training exercises but the departure was put on hold at the last moment.

A MoD spokesman confirmed that “fewer than 10” members of the 1,000-strong crew had tested positive for the coronavirus and had been taken ashore to be put into isolation in barracks.

Other sailors who had contact with their infected crewmates will isolate on board the 65,000 tonne ship.

The carrier was expected to sail again on Tuesday but this departure has again been cancelled although the Royal Navy has not yet specified the reason behind the continued delay.

The ship is now listed on the Queen’s Harbour Master’s website to sail on Wednesday.

It is the second time the carrier has had to postpone its sailing after two crew members tested positive for Covid-19 in April.

A Royal Navy spokesman said after Monday’s postponement: “A small number of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s personnel have tested positive for Covid during routine preparation for sailing.

“Those affected have been isolated and are working with the NHS test-and-trace system to ensure the virus does not spread further.

“The crew will continue to follow appropriate health guidelines and the HMS Queen Elizabeth will depart once their status has been confirmed.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth  (Andrew Matthews/PA)
HMS Queen Elizabeth (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The spokesman said that the decision when to sail would be left to the carrier’s commanding officer Captain Angus Essenhigh in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

It is understood that the ship was still awaiting some test results and the commanding officer took the decision to postpone the departure to ensure the safety of the crew.

The carrier is set to carry out training exercises at sea before returning to base for supplies ahead of departing for major international exercises including the embarkation for the first time of both US and UK F35 Lightning jets.

It is aiming to declare strike carrier capability later this year ahead of its first operational deployment in 2021.

Ahead of sailing, the ship posted on Twitter that its supplies to feed the crew during the forthcoming exercises included 90,000 potatoes, 43,000 carrots and 3,000 cucumbers.