Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Health authorities' search for 3 000 after cruise passenger tests positive for Covid-19

By Kailene Pillay Time of article published Mar 30, 2020

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Durban - Health authorities will have to work around the clock to track the more than 3 000 people who were on board the cruise vessel, the MSC Orchestra, which left Durban on March 13 for a three-day cruise to Mozambique, after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19.

MSC Cruises spokesperson, Ross Volk, said they were informed by the director of Port Health on Friday.

Since then, the cruise liner had sent out an alert to all 3 337 people, including crew members who were on the ship which returned to Durban on March 16.

Volk said the passenger had tested positive five days after returning home.

The test results were officially confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and communicated to MSC on Friday.

“The passenger had not shown any symptoms when going through the medical and travel history screening that all passengers and crew go through, prior to embarking on a cruise. She also did not report any symptoms to the ship’s on-board medical staff during the three-day cruise,” Volk said.

He said that shortly after receiving the confirmation, the MSC immediately communicated to all passengers who had been on the same cruise that a fellow passenger had tested positive for the coronavirus upon her return home.

“We recommended that they look out for any flu-like symptoms and quickly report any cold or flu symptoms or fever to their local health authority and to their general practitioner.

“We also recommended that they should continue to take a number of steps to reduce the risk of infection.”

MSC confirmed there had been 3 337 people on board the ship, comprising 2 408 passengers and 929 crew members. It said the NICD via Port Health had since requested all passenger details in order to trace all of them.

Ross said they had passengers from across the country.

KwaZulu-Natal Health Department spokesperson Noluthando Nkosi said: “All passengers have been advised of a patient on the cruise ship who tested positive. All provinces were given names of the passengers for follow-up in their respective regions. Those in KZN have been contacted, and testing and quarantine is ongoing.”

Nkosi added that they had dedicated teams of tracers who were working to locate the passengers.

“The cruise liner provided us with a list of passengers, which cuts out a lot of the work. The person who tested positive will also advise who she came into contact with,” she said.

Meanwhile, luxury cruise liner Queen Mary 2 has not yet been given clearance to dock in the Durban Port, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) and Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) said yesterday.

The passenger vessel is presently outside the Port of Durban and has asked for clearance to be allowed to dock in the port.

There are also six South African crew members on board waiting to disembark. If approval is granted by the Department of Transport and the Port Health unit of the KZN Department of Health, the vessel will dock, refuel and disembark the South African crew members before setting sail for Southampton in the UK.

The ship’s operator, Cunard, earlier this month said it had ended its three international voyages due to the virus.

The cruise liner was already on her way to South Africa when the government announced a ban on cruise ships.

“The Queen Mary 2 vessel is still awaiting clearance to dock,” TNPA general manager for the Port of Durban Moshe Motlohi said.

Samsa spokesperson Tebogo Ramatjie said that, so far, passengers on this ship had tested negative.

The Mercury

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