A small number of the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth personnel have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, delaying the aircraft carrier sailing for operational training.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was originally scheduled to leave Portsmouth yesterday, however, this has been delayed to ensure the ship’s crew is Covid-free before departing.

Naval Technology understands that fewer than ten personnel tested positive; these crew members were removed from the ship and taken to HMS Nelson to be monitored by military medics.

As a result of the confirmed cases, some personnel have been moved into isolation after they came into close contact with the affected crewmembers.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “A small number of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s personnel have tested positive for Covid during routine preparation for sailing. Those affected have been isolated and are working with the NHS Test and Trace system to ensure the virus does not spread further.

“The crew will continue to follow appropriate health guidelines and the HMS Queen Elizabeth will depart once their status has been confirmed.”

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Ahead of the deployment, the Royal Navy had undertaken around 1,000 tests using a similar process to that which allowed HMS Queen Elizabeth to go to sea without a Covid outbreak earlier this year.

The ship was due to leave Portsmouth to conduct two weeks of internal training ahead of a workup exercise later this month which will see two squadrons of F-35s embark, including fast jets from the US Marine Corps.

The upcoming exercise is a key part of the work-up to declaring initial operating capability (IOC) for Carrier Strike.

Naval Technology understands that the navy believes this timeline can be maintained and that the outbreak should have little effect on the work-up to IOC. After conducting two weeks’ internal training, HMS Queen Elizabeth was slated to return to port to take on stores before embarking the jets.

Any delays due to the outbreak are expected to be absorbed by this period. The ship is scheduled to set sail once it is confirmed all crew are Covid free.

A key milestone towards IOC will be Exercise Joint Warrior in Scotland this month, followed by further exercises with the Marine Corps jets. After IOC is declared, the ship is slated to complete its first operational deployment next year.