Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) on Tuesday confirmed that two vessels were being held off port limits after a crew member on board one of the vessels had begun to exhibit symptoms of Covid-19 earlier this week.
TNPA explained that two people had flown into South Africa from Istanbul, Turkey, on March 9, and subsequently boarded a cargo vessel, the MV Corona, as crew members in Cape Town.
Although only one of the two people was showing signs of being ill, both are being held in isolation onboard MV Corona.
This marks the first suspected case of the coronavirus at a South African sea port.
The MV Corona left the Port of Cape Town on Wednesday last week but, by Friday, the master of the vessel contacted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) and the Port Health unit of the Department of Health.
The master of the vessel was instructed to return to the Port of Cape Town for evacuation.
Upon the vessel’s arrival at the Cape Town port on March 16, the vessel waited off port limits. The MRCC, the Port Health unit and the Cape Town harbour master have coordinated efforts to evacuate both crew members by arranging with South African Air Force helicopters to transport the suspected ill crew member 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 vessel master and a doctor onboard the passenger liner, the six passengers have shown no symptoms of the virus, but are in isolation and are being monitored.
Meanwhile, the MV AidAmira ship has been operating between the Port of Cape Town and Walvis Bay, in Namibia, this cruise season. The vessel sailed on Friday last week from the Walvis Bay port with 1 240 passengers and a total crew of 486 onboard.
The ship was on a voyage back to Cape Town when TNPA was informed of the six passengers being on the same flight as the two MV Corona crew members.
The vessel 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 Sunday.
A Joint Operation Centre (JOC) was set up on March 16 inclusive of TNPA harbour master, the MRCC, the Port Health unit and a specialist doctor. After careful consideration of the facts by the JOC, the vessel was permitted to dock on Monday.
The six passengers have been evacuated and taken to hospital for testing and thereafter will 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, thereafter a decision will be made based on the results.