Fourteen crew members of a cargo ship that sailed to Durban from India have tested positive for COVID-19, as stated by South Africa’s Transnet National Port Authority.
The 14 were among the entire crew that was tested after the ship arrived in Durban on Sunday. They are now all in isolation as authorities have started contact-tracing to figure out with whom they may have come in contact.
While adding clarity on the cause of a chief engineer’s death aboard the ship, a spokesperson from Transnet said that it was due to a heart attack and not COVID-19.
“The vessel is currently on quarantine. No one is allowed to leave or enter the vessel, and the company responsible for anyone who worked on board is to track and trace all employees who interacted with the subject vessel,” Transnet said on Tuesday.
A senior port official, requesting anonymity, told a news portal that at least 200 port employees had been working on the vessel since Sunday evening, manually offloading about 3,000 tonnes of rice.
“The rice came in 50 kg bags. We are a bit concerned because a lot of people have boarded that vessel since Sunday,” said the source.
Transnet said the ship with Filipino crew had sailed directly from India, where they had been tested for COVID-19 and cleared as per requirements.
“Upon arrival at the Port of Durban, as a standard precautionary measure, all crew members were tested and 14 of the crew tested positive for COVID-19. The entire vessel is currently in quarantine at the Port of Durban, as per COVID-19 regulations,” Transnet said.
All operations with the vessel have been suspended.
The authority said it remained vigilant to ensure that all vessels calling at the port have been cleared.
“TNPA is responsible for ensuring that all vessels calling the port have been cleared by relevant state organs, namely, port health, migration, MRCC and customs before entering or leaving the port,” it said.
News of the incident has led to fears on social media that the new B.1.617 variant that was causing thousands of deaths in India daily had reached South African shores, to which South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has assured the public that plans are in place to test all arrivals into the country, reminding them that there were no direct flights from India.