Transnet National Ports Authority confirmed two vessels in the port of Cape Town were being held off port limits. Picture: Supplied
Transnet National Ports Authority confirmed two vessels in the port of Cape Town were being held off port limits. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town harbour hit by coronavirus scare as Mbalula ends 'cruises honeymoon'

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published Mar 18, 2020

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Cape Town – In the first suspected case of Covid-19 at a South African sea port, two vessels and the people aboard them have been quarantined at the Cape Town Harbour, after a crew member showed symptoms of the virus yesterday.

The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said the two ships are cargo ship MV Corona and the Italian-flagged MV AidAmira. The MV Corona crew member was one of two who had flown into the country from Istanbul on March 9.

Even though only one of them was showing symptoms, both have been placed into isolation.

Acting chief harbour master Captain Sabelo Mdlalose said: “MV Corona left the Port of Cape Town on Wednesday, March 11. On Friday, the Master of this vessel contacted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre 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.”

When the ship arrived on Monday, evacuation efforts for both crew members were started by arranging helicopters to transport them to hospital.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said there will be no honeymoon, referring to people planning cruises from South Africa in the near future.

He was one of the ministers addressing a press briefing last night At OR Tambo on the border closures being implemented by the SA government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

He said passengers arriving by air from “banned” countries would be stopped, and those aboard MV Corona would be refused permission to dock in Cape Town and not be allowed to disembark.

On the other ship, the Italian flagged MV AidAmira passenger vessel, six passengers reported being on the same flight as the MV Corona crewmen.

A joint operations centre was set up and the vessel was permitted to dock, while the six passengers were evacuated and taken to hospital for testing.

They will thereafter be taken to a quarantined area arranged by Port Health officials.

The rest of the passengers have been quarantined on board until test results are received. “This is the first suspected case of Covid-19 in a South African sea-port....Transnet National Ports Authority is responsible for ensuring that all vessels have been cleared by relevant state organs namely, Port Health, Migration, MRCC and customs before entering or leaving the Port,” Mdlalose said.

V&A Waterfront spokesperson, Donald Kau, said three ships were currently docked at the Cape Town cruise terminal: MV AidAmira, World Odyssey and Le Lyrial.

“World Odyssey arrived on Saturday. Passengers on World Odyssey were cleared by the Department of Health and disembarked. Le Lyrial arrived on Monday and passengers were also cleared and disembarked.

“MV AidAmira also arrived on Monday. Six passengers on-board are awaiting clearance from the department. They have had precautionary testing and are awaiting results from the department.”

He said that the operating of commercial vessels was continuing in the whole port, including the cruise terminal. 

“The port is not closed, all commercial operation continues. We are working with port health and local communicable disease management teams to make sure our staff, customers and visitors are safe,” Kau said.

Meanwhile, the Robben Island Museum (RIM) has temporarily suspended tours until today as they continue engaging with role-players.

They have reassured visitors that rescheduling or cancellation fees will not be applied.

Cape Times

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