Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and at least four of its strike group ships have been affected by a Covid-19 outbreak.
The ship is on its maiden mission, a voyage that began in May and continues through December, spanning several strategic waters, during Britain’s largest naval displacement since the Falklands War (1982).
The outbreak, according to the BBC network, has affected around 100 seafarers, but there are no details of how many people are infected on which ships. The attack group includes the aircraft carrier, 2 British and 1 American destroyers, 2 British and 1 Dutch frigates, 2 auxiliary ships and 1 submarine.
There are a total of 3,700 troops in the operation, largely on the Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s flagship with a capacity of 1,600 sailors that has been criticized for its exorbitant unit price of $ 3 billion. pounds sterling (around R $ 21 billion today).
British newspapers say the biggest suspicion is that they were infected on a night out during a layover in Cyprus, when they were allowed to leave the ships. But there is also a still unexplained death aboard the frigate HMS Kent, which had called in Greece.
According to the Ministry of Defense, all members of the mission had taken two doses of the Covid vaccine and there are mandatory measures of social distancing and the wearing of masks. Those infected have been isolated and the mission continues.
Last year, in the early stages of the pandemic, one of America’s giant aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, had to be evacuated to Guam (Pacific) due to an outbreak of the disease.
The episode did even more: it brought down the commander of the US Navy. He had resisted the ship’s captain’s requests to disembark the crew and dismissed them from duty, always insulting him during a message to sailors.
The Queen Elizabeth is a piece of geopolitical propaganda from the British, who since 2014 did not have the ability to project naval power with aircraft carriers.
Navy analysts doubt the sustainability of maintaining such a force at sea, especially as the bill will double when the ship’s twin brother, HMS Prince of Wales, is operational.
In any case, the government of Boris Johnson wants to resume the leading role in the alliance with the United States, even outside the perimeter of NATO (Western military alliance). Thus, aboard the Queen Elizabeth are 8 ultramodern British F-35B fighters, but 10 American.
The presence of a Washington destroyer, in addition to a Dutch destroyer, also serves to prove the capability of operational leadership in an environment that basically saw only significant developments in the United States and China, with some occasional news from Russia.
The Queen Elizabeth has previously exercised in the Mediterranean with French and Allied forces, and participated in attacks against positions of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria. The group doesn’t work together all the time.
In this part of the operation, for example, the destroyer HMS Defender was accompanied by the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen to the Black Sea. There, the British ship received warning shots from the Russian Coast Guard, in the most serious incident of its kind since the Cold War.
The ship passed through the coastal waters of Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014 and which the international community considers part of Ukraine. Shortly after, Evertsen was harassed by Russian jets, which simulated attacks on him, which generated protests from the Netherlands.
Last week, the Queen Elizabeth crossed the Suez Canal bound for the Indian Ocean, where she will begin operating in waters of strategic Chinese interest. Further, he is expected to sail in the South China Sea, which Beijing considers 85% to be its own, yet another sign of a willingness to retaliate.
In addition to the Western geopolitical interest in locking up the Chinese within the framework of Cold War 2.0, in the case of the United Kingdom, there is the aggravation of the fact that London is especially upset by Beijing’s repression in Hong Kong, that he plans to violate the treaty by which it returned the former colony to China in 1997.