Coronavirus News Asia

US aircraft carrier should never have been sent to Vietnam

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam on March 4 for a five-day visit. Captain Bret Crozier was relieved of command after writing a “request for assistance” letter regarding Covid-19 cases aboard ship on March 30. The real story behind the dismissal of Captain Crozier is that the ship should never have been sent to Vietnam and its crew should never have mixed with the local Vietnamese population.  

The Navy was well aware it was putting carrier personnel at extreme risk and made faulty preparations in case of infection. A close reading of Captain Crozier’s March 30 letter makes it clear that the Navy did not equip the carrier with either proper testing capabilities or instructions on what to do if anyone got sick. The actual number of infected personnel on the Theodore Roosevelt is not known, but it is thought to be more than 100.

According to a March 12 press release from the US Indo-Pacific Command, “sailors from both ships participated in cultural exchanges and community service projects, including making crafts, playing sports, a language exchange, gardening, and painting” at a variety of locations.

Ironically, there was also a professional exchange on infectious disease prevention during the visit.

By the time of the Theodore Roosevelt’s port call, the US Navy – and the whole world – was aware of how the virus could wreak havoc on a crowded ship. 

On January 20, 2020, the cruise ship Diamond Princess sailed from Yokohama, Japan with 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew on a 14-day voyage. Then the virus struck. The cruise ship company announced that a passenger from Hong Kong tested positive for Covid-19 on February 1, six days after leaving the ship.

The infection rapidly spread through passengers and crew. On February 16, the US State Department chartered aircraft to bring American citizens back to the US. In the next few days, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong also arranged for aircraft to bring their citizens home.   

Out of the 3,711 passengers and crew onboard the Diamond Princess, 712 were infected and 12 died.

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