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18 Apr, 2020 05:25

Indian naval base enters ‘total lockdown’ as 20+ sailors test positive for Covid-19

Indian naval base enters ‘total lockdown’ as 20+ sailors test positive for Covid-19

A number of Indian sailors based on shore in Mumbai have contracted the lethal coronavirus, prompting the naval base to impose a strict quarantine as fears grow that the fast-moving pathogen could soon find its way onto warships.

At least 20 sailors at the INS Angre logistical support base in Mumbai tested positive for the virus, the Navy confirmed on Saturday, kicking off a sweeping “contact tracing” operation as the military searches for other potential carriers and locks down the naval installation.

The residential block has been declared a containment zone, with the entire INS Angre being put under total lockdown.

Each of the new cases were traced back to one serviceman who tested positive last week, local media report, noting that all of the infected personnel reside in the same building.

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INS Angre is located alongside the naval shipyard in Mumbai, where a number of warships and submarines are docked. While the infected sailors – who are reportedly asymptomatic for the most part – have been isolated at a nearby naval hospital, it remains unclear if they came in contact with any of the ships’ crewmen. As of yet, though, the virus has not been detected on any Navy vessels.

Perhaps concerned by outbreaks on board four American aircraft carriers and several other warships, as well as on the flagship of the French Navy, Indian Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh recently stressed the need to prevent the virus from taking hold on military vessels, where effective containment is virtually impossible.

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“We have to ensure our operational assets, warships and submarines, remain free from the virus…I know it’s a very difficult task because physical distancing on board warships, especially submarines, is a great challenge,” Singh said in a video message to sailors last week.

We need to be ready for the worst-case scenario and to my mind, it will be a long battle.

While the 20 or so sailors represent the largest Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian military to date, at least eight Army personnel have also tested positive, two of them medics.

India has tallied nearly 500 fatalities and more than 14,000 cases in its Covid-19 outbreak – some 3,200 of them in the state of Maharashtra, the country’s worst hit-area, of which Mumbai is the provincial capital. In an effort to stem the spread of the virus, New Delhi recently extended a nationwide lockdown to early May, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that the containment measures were beginning to work, but that citizens would nonetheless have to endure another month under tight restrictions.

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