A COVID-19 outbreak struck a UK ballistic-missile sub after sailors broke isolation rules at a US Navy base

  • A UK ballistic-missile submarine has had a COVID-19 outbreak, with more than one-fourth of its crew getting sick after a recent visit to a US Navy base.
  • More than 30 sailors aboard Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of four that maintain the UK's nuclear deterrent, tested positive after crew members reportedly broke isolation rules and went off base.
  • The US Navy had outbreaks on its ships earlier this year, the most serious of them on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, but it has taken aggressive measures to prevent the spread.
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British Royal Navy ballistic-missile submarine HMS Vigilant has suffered a COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 30 crew members testing positive for the virus, according to multiple reports.

The outbreak followed recent a port visit to Navy Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, where sailors ignored rules intended to prevent such an outbreak and left the base, a US official told USNI News, confirming earlier British reporting.

The UK tabloid The Sun said that Royal Navy sailors visited bars, restaurants, and strip clubs in Georgia and in neighboring Florida. The two states have seen hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases since the coronavirus crisis began earlier this year.

A message sent to another submarine said the crew of the Vigilant "breached their guidance and are now in the s–t," The Sun reported. The Vigilant's doctor and executive officer are among the crew members who have tested positive.

Altogether, roughly one-fourth of the submarine's crew have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the most recent reports.

The Vigilant is a Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine armed with Trident missiles. It is one of four such submarines tasked with maintaining the UK's nuclear deterrence force.

The US Navy saw a serious COVID-19 outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, among other ships, that infected, hospitalized, and even killed sailors this spring. Learning from these outbreaks, the service has taken aggressive measures to prevent the spread of the virus aboard its vessels.

The US Navy has been particularly protective of its submarines, ideal places for diseases to spread given the close quarters in which the sailors aboard them live and work.

The Royal Navy says that because of its mission, "HMS Vigilant is far from a high-profile vessel — her top-secret duties mean she must 'disappear' on patrol for weeks on end," but the outbreak aboard the Vigilant is not the first time the submarine has found itself in the news.

In 2017, the submarine found itself in the middle of sex and drug scandals, which reportedly earned it the nickname "HMS Sex and Cocaine."

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