Varun Sood, from left, Shweta Tiwari, Vishal Singh, Rahul Vaidya and Divyanka Tripathi. | Instagram
Varun Sood, from left, Shweta Tiwari, Vishal Singh, Rahul Vaidya and Divyanka Tripathi. | Instagram

PICS: Covid-19 spreader fears as Indian stars jet into SA

By Chanelle Lutchman Time of article published May 13, 2021

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Durban - With Covid-19 cases in the country on the rise, health experts are pleading with South Africans to be more responsible.

However, a group of Indian celebrities arrived in Cape Town late last week, apparently oblivious to the dangers.

Pictures and videos posted on their social media accounts hours after they arrived, show them sight-seeing, shopping and dancing, often with no masks and little to no social distancing. Among the places they visited were Bo Kaap and the V&A Waterfront.

India is currently in the grip of a Covid-19 wave that has killed tens of thousands and infected many more while experts have warned South Africa is weeks away from a third wave.

Varun Sud

Even before the Indian stars arrived, there were calls for the South African government to tighten restrictions at borders and impose a compulsory isolation period for those coming from Covid-19 hotspot countries.

The Democratic Alliance, the country’s main opposition party, and the Economic Freedom Fighters warned against open borders as did the South African Muslim Network (Samnet) and the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (Imasa).

On Thursday, the 12 Indian actors, actresses and musicians boarded a plane from Mumbai Airport in India. They stopped in Doha before touching down in Cape Town on Saturday.

Divyanka Tripathi

Hours later, their social media feeds showed them sight-seeing and shopping.

They are in the country to shoot Season 11 of Khatron Ke Khiladi (Fear Factor India).

Khatron Ke Khiladi is adapted from the popular American reality tv show, Fear Factor. It was launched in India in 2006 on Sony TV. Since 2008, the show has aired on Colours TV.

Mukul Dev, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra and Arjun Kapoor have hosted the show in various seasons.

It was always shot outside of India including Brazil and Spain.

The current contestants are Divyanka Tripathi, Arjun Bijlani, Nikki Tamboli, Vishal Aditya Singh, Aastha Gill, Sana Makbul, Anushka Sen, Shweta Tiwari, Mahekk Chahal, Rahul Vaidya, Abhinav Shukla, Varun Sood, and Sourabh Raj Jain.

Rohit Shetty, an Indian director, is the host of the show and shooting started last Sunday.

Anushka Sen in BoKaap

According to media reports and posts on her social media feeds, Tamboli lost her brother Jatin, 29, last week to Covid-19. She flew to Cape Town two days after his death.

A number of her fans criticised her on social media for leaving India so soon after the death. She responded in a post that her brother would have wanted her to complete her dream of taking part in the show.

Dr Faisel Suleman, the director at Samnet, said this was the reason Samnet and Imasa had sent out a joint letter last week to Health Minster Dr Zweli Mkhize. Suleman also serves on the media desk at Imasa.

“We called for the borders to be closed or for a compulsory isolation period because we knew something like this can happen and it's not on. The whole world is screening and closing their borders to the high-risk countries, but our government is too relaxed and it is putting our country at risk. We need to put safety first and instil the mandatory isolation.”

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Dr Zanele Bikitsha, the chairperson of the South African Medical Association (KZN), said it would have been better if a quarantine period had been imposed given that India was a high-risk Covid country.

Colours TV SA did not comment by the time of publishing.

However, a source, close to the industry who did not want to be named, said the arrival of the contestants was kept hush-hush.

“I did not know they were coming until it was on social media. It is shocking that the contestants were allowed to arrive and go out touring knowing that they are coming from a country that's so hard-hit by Covid-19 at the moment.

“Why would you shoot a show like this while you are in a pandemic? It is high risk for the contestants, the crew and South Africans in general,” said the source.

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Handrie Basson, executive producer of Afrokaans International, who is facilitating Khatron Ke Khiladi/Fear Factor India in Cape Town, said the 12 contestants, including Tamboli, were tested in India on May 3 and before their departure to South Africa on May 5. None were found to have traces of the virus.

"As per the BRICS countries' travel policies, for any person travelling between BRICS countries (of which SA and India are both a part), the only requirement to enter the country is a negative PCR test for Covid-19. All the contestants and the crew who arrived in South Africa tested negative and presented negative tests on their arrival."

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Basson said with regards to Tamboli, her brother fell ill over a month ago and contracted Covid-19 while in hospital. She did not have contact with him.

"As you know, the bodies of Covid patients who passed away in India are not returned to their families. Since their arrival, Miss Tamboli and her fellow contestants and crew members have been wearing masks and observing Covid-protocols such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and sanitising whenever they have been in public spaces.

"We are extremely cautious filming in these troubled times. We are following strict policies and procedures to ensure the safety of the South African and Indian crew, cast members, and the broader South African public here in the Western Cape.

“As a partner on this facilitation, we are in constant contact with the City of Cape Town and we are following their, as well as our own, Standard Operating Procedures, regarding filming during Covid, which includes weekly PCR test for all crew and cast, as well as social distancing, enforced mask-wearing and sanitizing on sets. The next PCR tests scheduled for both crew and cast will happen (on) 12 May," said Basson.

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