Covid 19: crew of South Korean navy destroyer off Africa waters

Sailors and officers of a South Korean navy (ROKS) destroyer “Munmu” have contracted the coronavirus operating off the Somalian Coast, in Eastern Africa.

75 of the crewmembers (that is, one in four) have been diagnosed with one of the new strains of coronavirus infection while 247 have the basic covid-19 strain.

ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976) is a Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class destroyer, named after the Korean king Munmu of Silla.
The Munmu the Great destroyer is currently deployed for anti-piracy mission in the Somalian coast, leaving South Korea to start its mission in February.

The covid-19 outbreak was first reported aboard Munmu on Thursday 15 July, and then the ROKS’ Joint Chiefs of Staff made a statement on Monday, that just 50 personnel out of 301 on the Destroyer had tested negative for the virus.

Currently, the virus is actively spreading, since it is near impossible to completely isolate the sick shipmates on the destroyer.

Apparently, South Korean Defense Ministry noted that none of the Destroyer’s shipmates was vaccinated as the vessel had left the country in February, before a vaccination campaign began for military personnel.

Sources close to the matter reported that none of the affected personnel aboard the destroyer were classified as severe cases, though one person developed conditions that required close observation.

So far, the South Korean Navy have begun airlifting the destroyer’s crew home with two military transport aircraft with special equipment were sent to Africa from Seoul, while a replacement team will steer the vessel back, this, terminating the anti-piracy deployment.

The cause of infections hasn’t been ascertained yet, but it is possible that the crew of the vessel were infected on 19 May after Munmu the Great docked in eastern Africa in late June to resupply.

About 15 crew members of the South Korean warship have already been taken to an unspecified hospital in one of the countries of East Africa.

Munmu the Great (DDH-976) was built by Hyundai for the South Korean Navy – it was launched on 11 April 2003, and commissioned on 30 September 2004.

In April 2018, the warship was deployed to Ghana with personnel from the Special Warfare Brigade as part of a mission to rescue kidnapped South Korean fishermen.

The destroyer displaces 4,400 t (4,300 long tons) standard and 5,520 t (5,430 long tons) full load.

It’s armament includes a 5″/54 caliber Mark 45 gun, a Goalkeeper CIWS for air and naval defence, 64 vertical launch system (VLS), 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile for air defense, eight RGM-84 Harpoon for anti-ship warfare and two triple K745 Blue Shark Torpedo for anti-submarine warfare.

Munmu the Great destroyer is equipped with a helicopter hanger and a Lynx helicopter is usually deployed with the ship.

The 4,400-ton South Korean destroyer has been escorting cargo vessels off the coast of Somalia since April this year.

On Monday, Munmu helped chased away pirates who attempted to hijack a North Korean vessel in seas off Somalia Monday.

Mummu the Great, which was only 3 kilometers away from the suspected pirate ship, dispatched a Lynx helicopter with snipers on board.

The pirates retreated when the snipers threatened to open fire, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
South Korea has taken part in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009.

The Munmu the Great was to be replaced with another destroyer next month following a six-month rotational deployment. The second destroyer is on its way to the area.

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