Coronavirus crisis looms over Indian Navy’s Western Command Headquarters; INS Angre locked down

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Updated: April 18, 2020 11:04 PM

COVID-19 crisis: After major Navies like the US and France reported a large number of personnel infected by Coronavirus on their aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy on Saturday also reported that 20 of its sailors have tested COVID-19 positive. These personnel are located at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai, at INS Angre — a […]

(Image Courtesy: Indian Navy)

COVID-19 crisis: After major Navies like the US and France reported a large number of personnel infected by Coronavirus on their aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy on Saturday also reported that 20 of its sailors have tested COVID-19 positive.

These personnel are located at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai, at INS Angre — a shore-based establishment. It is a large naval base and houses naval officers in NOFRA area, has schools and hostel for naval children. It also has the Headquarters of the Ex-servicemen Health plan.

(Image Courtesy: Indian Navy)

“Chances are the numbers might go up as administrative and logistic support functions are undertaken for each and every officer, sailor, civilian and their families posted in Western Command Headquarters,” explained a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.

An official statement released by the Indian Navy states, “That the number of 20 sailors have been identified and many of them are asymptomatic. These have been traced to a single sailor who had tested positive earlier this month.”

The entire block at INS Angre has been put under quarantine, and INS Angre establishment has been locked down as per the established COVID-19 protocols.

A WHO document has stated that the possibility of transmission through an asymptomatic person cannot be totally ruled out.

Recently, the US Navy reported more than 1000 positive cases from amongst its personnel from 11 aircraft carriers, including USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Even the French have reported 1000 personnel testing positive onboard their only aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle.

(Image Courtesy: Indian Navy)

Experts’ Views

Commodore Anil Jai Singh (retd), Vice President, Indian Maritime Foundation, says, “This virus can spread so easily and the time delay in its physical manifestation leads to its unsuspecting spread which is what would have happened in this case. It’s unfortunate that it has spread amongst naval sailors in INS Angre.”

Expressing his concern, Singh says, “The challenge will be in containing the spread. The Navy like all other organisations would have locked down as best as they can but the nature of the job precludes a total lockdown. After all, ships have to be manned. The Navy has prepared itself for this eventuality. Naval hospitals are geared up to handle COVID cases and medical teams are working round the clock. The medical and administrative expertise and experience within the service would be according it the top priority and pulling as one to address it.  Hopefully, the severity may be less as our sailors are young and physically fit.”

“Also, the inherent discipline of the service would ensure that measures introduced to tackle this would be strictly adhered to and thus reduce its further spread. As a veteran, I am confident that the Navy would be able to combat this successfully,” Singh concludes.

According to the former spokesperson of the Indian Navy Capt DK Sharma, “The Coronavirus pandemic has spread its tentacles far and wide and Indian Navy has been no exception. The Indian Navy has put out a press note stating that around 20 sailors from a base depot ship, INS Angre at Mumbai, a stone frigate as we call them, have been the latest victims of this unknown enemy.”

“This is a very alarming situation as the Navy has been following all the precautions to the T since our Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation in March end. Earlier this month the CNS also addressed the Navy through a video message and had warned the rank and file to be ready for a challenge and a tough fight against the COVID-19. He had particularly mentioned that the caregiver should not turn into a care-seeker and had emphasized on the need for Social Distancing and other precautions of wearing face masks and washing of hands with soap regularly,” Sharma said.

(Image Courtesy: Indian Navy)

“In the instant case, the block was quarantined since April 7, when the first case was detected. Thereafter, the sailors were being monitored very closely and when a few of them started showing symptoms, the alarm bells rang and tests were carried out both on symptomatic as well as asymptomatic cases,” the former spokesperson added.

The Navy has shifted all the positive cases to INHS Ashvini, naval hospital for further management of the Coronavirus cases and the Base Depot ship has been declared a containment Zone and no movements whatsoever is allowed.

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