1,700 trapped on Cape Town cruise ship in Covid-19 drama

17 March 2020 - 15:31 By Bobby Jordan
Six passengers aboard the AIDAmira were on the same flight from Istanbul as two sailors now in isolation aboard their cargo vessel in Cape Town harbour.
Six passengers aboard the AIDAmira were on the same flight from Istanbul as two sailors now in isolation aboard their cargo vessel in Cape Town harbour.
Image: AIDA Cruises

More than 1,700 people are trapped aboard a cruise liner in Cape Town amid a Covid-19 scare.

Six passengers on the ship, which set sail from Walvis Bay on Friday and arrived off Cape Town on Sunday, were on the same flight as a sailor who had since shown coronavirus symptoms, a Transnet statement said on Tuesday.

The six passengers, who flew to Cape Town from Istanbul then on to Walvis Bay, have since been evacuated and taken to hospital for tests before being moved to a quarantine area arranged by port health officials.

But until their test results are known, the remaining 1,720 passengers and crew are confined to the ship.

Aida Cruises confirmed the screening of six passengers. “Six guests with possible contact are being checked,” said head of communications Hansjörg Kunze.

“The guests have already been on board for one week without showing any symptoms. We have arranged flights accordingly to bring our guests home quickly. For this, however, we are lacking clearance of the local authorities.”

V&A Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau confirmed the AIDAmira was awaiting clearance from the health department.

As of March 13 2020, the coronavirus had infected more than 130,000 people and killed more than 4,700 worldwide. The symptoms of Covid-19 can be similar to those of the common cold or flu. Symptoms that warrant further testing include shortness of breath, a high persistent fever, and being unable to eat or drink.

Two sailors who were on the same flight to Cape Town as the six passengers are in isolation aboard their cargo vessel anchored outside the port of Cape Town.

Transnet said one of the sailors aboard the MV Corona had shown symptoms of Covid-19 infection, and the other had not.

“This is the first suspected case of Covid-19 in a South African seaport,” said Transnet.

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

“MV Corona left the port of Cape Town on Wednesday March 11. On Friday March 13, the master of this vessel contacted the maritime rescue co-ordination centre and the port health unit of the national department of health, confirming one crew member was exhibiting symptoms and requesting that the vessel returns to the port of Cape Town for evacuation. Permission was granted by both authorities.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on March 15 2020. This comes after the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus reached 61.


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