Covid-19: Cruise and cargo vessel held ‘off port limits’ in Cape Town

First suspected sea-port case in South Africa under investigation.
The Port of Cape Town has two vessels "off port limits" after a suspected case of Covid-19 coronavirus on one of the vessels, ironically named MV Corona. The other vessel is a cruise ship with some 1700 passengers and crew members on board. Image: Supplied/TNPA

A cargo vessel, as well as a cruise ship with 1700 passengers and crew on board, are being held off port limits in Cape Town after a crew member onboard the cargo vessel began to exhibit symptoms of the Covid-19 coronavirus, South African port landlord Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) confirmed on Tuesday.

“This is the first suspected case of Covid-19 in a South African sea-port,” TNPA said in a statement.

The port authority has established that the affected male crew member of general cargo vessel, ironically called MV Corona, had recently been on a flight from Turkey with a fellow crew member and six passengers who went on to board a cruise vessel at the port.

Read: Minister concerned about Coronavirus impact on tourism

“The two crew members had flown into the country from Istanbul, Turkey on 9 March. Only one of the two is showing signs of being ill, however, both have been placed into isolation onboard the MV Corona,” it noted.

TNPA said that MV Corona left the Port of Cape Town on Wednesday, March 11; however, on Friday, March 13 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 Covid-19 symptoms.

A request was made that the vessel returns to the Cape Town port for evacuation. Permission was granted by both authorities.

“Upon arrival on Monday (March 16 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 the airforce helicopters for the suspected crew member to be transported to hospital,” said TNPA.

“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,” the ports authority added.

TNPA noted that the MV AidAmira ship has been operating between the Port of Cape Town and Walvis Bay in Namibia for the current cruise season.

“The vessel sailed on Friday, March 13 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 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,” it added.

The ports authority said that the Master of the MV AidAmira immediately quarantined the six passengers to prevent any possible virus outbreak aboard the ship

“The ship arrived outside the Port of Cape Town on March 15 2020. A Joint Operation Centre (JOC) was set up on 16 March 2020 inclusive of TNPA Harbour Master, MRCC, Port Health and a specialist doctor. After careful consideration of the facts by the JOC, the vessel was permitted to dock on the 16 March 2020,” it pointed out.

“The six passengers have been evacuated and taken to the 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,” TNPA added.

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