At least 26 Indian Navy personnel have tested positive for coronavirus at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai, in the first case of a major outbreak of the disease in the Indian armed forces.
All the infected sailors were serving at the INS Angre, a shore-based logistics and support establishment, and they are undergoing treatment at a Navy hospital, official sources said.
“The number of infected sailors is 26,” said a source.
The Navy has launched a large-scale contact tracing operation to track the people who may have come in contact with the sailors.
The outbreak of the infection in the Indian Navy comes at a time when a number of navies globally are grappling with the pandemic. A sailor on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, reported as many as 500 cases of the virus. The French Navy has also been hit hard by the pandemic.
The sources said 25 of of the infected sailors were staying in a building with single-room accommodation and barracks within the INS Angre complex, while one sailor was living with his mother in his own house.
The sailor’s mother has also tested positive, the sources said.
The Navy is testing all the people staying in the residential accommodation and it has been declared a “containment zone”, while INS Angre has been put under total lockdown in line with the prescribed protocol of medical research body ICMR, they said.
In a statement, the Navy said 21 serving personnel have been tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility.
“Most of these are asymptomatic and have been traced to a single sailor who was tested positive on April 7. They all reside in the same accommodation block at INS Angre,” it said.
Sources said top Defence Ministry officials as well as the Naval headquarters are keeping an eye on the incident.
They said the Navy has ordered all its establishments to maintain the highest precaution to protect personnel from the virus.
It is the first case of a sizeable number of military personnel being treated for Covid-19. The Indian Army has reported eight cases of the deadly virus so far.
Last week, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, in a video message, told his personnel that vital operational assets such as ships and submarines must remain free from the virus.
“The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and it has never been seen before. Its impact has been extraordinary across the globe, including India,” he said.
The danger posed by this disease is real, imminent and unprecedented, he noted.