NATIONAL NEWS - The South African port landlord, the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), confirmed on Tuesday in a statement that two vessels in the Port of Cape Town were being held off port limits after a crew member onboard one of the vessels began to exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, which is caused by a novel coronavirus.
It was later established he had been on a flight with a fellow crew member and six passengers who went on to board a cruise vessel at the port, said spokesperson Ayanda Mantshongo.
This is the first suspected case of Covid-19 in a South African seaport. The two crew members had flown into the country from Istanbul, Turkey on 9 March. Only one of the two was showing signs of being ill, but both were placed into isolation onboard the general cargo vessel, MV Corona.
MV Corona left the Port of Cape Town on Wednesday. On Friday the master of the vessel contacted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and the Port Health unit of the National Department of Health, confirming one crew member was exhibiting symptoms and requesting that the vessel return to the Port of Cape Town for evacuation. Permission was granted by both authorities.
“Corona” means, roughly translated, ‘crown’ in Latin.
“Upon arrival on Monday, 16 March 2020, the vessel waited off port limits. MRCC, Port Health and the Harbour Master of the Port of Cape Town have coordinated efforts to evacuate both crew members by arranging with airforce helicopters for the suspected crew member to be transported to hospital.
“Six passengers on board the Italian flagged MV AidAmira passenger vessel had been on the same flight as the crew members of the MV Corona. However, according to the Master and the Doctor onboard the passenger liner, the six have shown no symptoms of the virus but are in isolation and being monitored continuously,” said Mantshongo.
“Meanwhile, the MV AidAmira ship has been operating between Port of Cape Town and Namibia (Walvis Bay) this cruise season. The vessel sailed on Friday from the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia with 1,240 passengers and a total crew of 486 on board. The ship was on her voyage back to the Port of Cape Town, when TNPA was informed by Port Health Cape Town that six passengers had been on the same flight as the two MV Corona crew members.
“The Master of the MV AidAmira immediately quarantined the six passengers to prevent the spread of the infection to other passengers and crew onboard. The ship arrived outside the Port of Cape Town on 15 March. A Joint Operation Centre (JOC) was set up on 16 March inclusive of TNPA Harbour Master, SAMSA (MRCC), Port Health and a Specialist Doctor. After careful consideration of the facts by the JOC, the vessel was permitted to dock on 16 March.”
The six passengers were evacuated and taken to hospital for testing and thereafter would be taken to a quarantined area arranged by port health officials. The rest of the passengers would remain quarantined on board until the test results for the six are received, and thereafter a decision will be made based on the results.
So far only one of the two crew members on board the MV Corona had shown symptoms of being sick and no passengers or crew onboard the MV AIDAmira were exhibiting any symptoms, said Mantshongo.