Britain’s new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth is coming to Guam as part of the UK’s support for the US military’s freedom of navigation exercises in the region, particularly the hotly disputed South China Sea.
During the last couple of weeks, however, the carrier group has had a COVID-19 outbreak. According to the BBC, an outbreak of COVID-19 has been confirmed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. Several other warships in the fleet accompanying it are also affected.
However, the U.S. military, which is hosting the UK carrier group, assures that the COVID-19 cases in the UK ships have been few and have already been contained.
Brigadier General Jeremy T. Sloane, the commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, said the military has mitigation plans and procedures to ensure that there is no transmission of the virus to the population of Guam.
“We’ve got plans in place to make sure that we keep those folks isolated and well away from populations that might be vulnerable,” he said during a virtual news conference on Sunday.
He added: “This is not the first time we’ve done something like this. Obviously, tremendous support from the community with regard to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, where we brought in and supported a unit at scale that had an outbreak kept that control and safety so that there wasn’t any follow-on transmission across the island. In this case, the case numbers that have been on the Queen Elizabeth have been very small in comparison.”
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy and is capable of carrying 60 aircraft including fixed-wing, rotary wing, and autonomous vehicles.
It is the central part of a UK Carrier Strike Group, consisting of escorts and support ships, with the aim of facilitating carrier-enabled power projection.
Sloane confirmed that the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be docking on Guam.
“They’ll be here within the next couple of weeks and operating in the region. And we’re looking forward to that operation because it’s the UK and US forces working together and bringing that sort of compatibility to the region,” he said.