Coronavirus: US Navy captain pleads for help over outbreak

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The USS Theodore Roosevelt enters port in VietnamImage source, Reuters

The captain of a US aircraft carrier carrying more than 4,000 crew has called for urgent help to halt a coronavirus outbreak on his ship.

Scores of people on board the Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the infection. The carrier is currently docked in Guam.

"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a letter to the Pentagon.

Captain Crozier recommended quarantining almost the entire crew.

In the letter Captain Crozier said that with large numbers of sailors living in confined spaces on the carrier isolating sick individuals was impossible.

The coronavirus' spread was now "ongoing and accelerating", he warned, in the letter dated 30 March.

"Decisive action is needed," he said.

"Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. This is a necessary risk."

It is not clear how many crew members on the Theodore Roosevelt have the coronavirus. The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported on the letter, said at least 100 sailors were infected.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, a US Navy spokesman said the service was "moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt".

What's the situation in the US?

On Tuesday the coronavirus death toll in the US passed the figure reported in China, where the outbreak began. At least 3,400 have died.

The number of recorded cases stands at over 175,000, more than any other country, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

New York state has seen the largest number of infections and its governor, Andrew Cuomo, warned the peak was still to come.

"We're still going up the mountain. the main battle is on the top of the mountain," he said.

Field hospitals are being built in Central Park and other New York landmarks to help ease the pressure on the city's health system.

Media caption,

US death rates v UK, Italy and South Korea