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French minister blames mistakes for virus outbreak on aircraft carrier

FILE PHOTO: French Defence Minister Florence Parly talks to media after a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s armed forces minister blamed an outbreak of the coronavirus that infected more than 1,000 sailors through its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier fleet on mistakes made during efforts to counter the disease’s spread.

All but one of the sailors, about two dozen of whom were hospitalised, had now fully recovered, Florence Parly told parliament’s defence committee on Monday.

“Based on the information we have today there were errors in the measures taken to fight the coronavirus,” Parly said.

“The investigation shows the commanders and their medical advisers overestimated the ability of the aircraft carrier and its flotilla to face the coronavirus.”

She added that the investigations did not apportion blame on those in command of the carrier group, about 1,000 of whose 2,300 sailors tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rapid spread of the disease on board the Charles de Gaulle, a 42-tonne warship with more than 1,700 sailors, has raised questions similar to those that arose from an outbreak on board the U.S. carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

Parly said the investigation had shown the coronavirus arrived between a stopover in Cyprus at the end of February and a March 13-16 stopover in the French western port city of Brest, probably after people were brought on board in air rotations.

Reporting by Tangi Salaun; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Jon Boyle and Catherine Evans