Fikile Mbalula announces ban on cruise ships as six passengers test negative for Covid-19
Six passengers on the AIDAmira cruise ship, which set sail from Walvis Bay in Namibia on Friday and arrived off Cape Town on Sunday, were on the same flight as a sailor who has since shown coronavirus symptoms. The passengers had to be tested for Covid-19, while the rest of the 1,700 passengers and crew on board were trapped until the results were revealed.
Six passengers aboard the AIDAmira cruise ship, which arrived in Cape Town on Sunday, have tested negative for Covid-19.
Sobantu Tilayi, CEO of the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), told journalists on Wednesday that the six on the ship, which set sail from Walvis Bay in Namibia on Friday, had been on the same flight as a sailor who has since shown symptoms.
Tilayi was speaking at a press conference at the Cape Town harbour alongside transport minister Fikile Mbalula and home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, facing the cruise liner as some of the passengers watched.
The evacuated passengers were potentially exposed to the crew member of another vessel, the MV Corona, on a flight to Cape Town from Istanbul, Turkey.
Media at a presser where minister of transport Fikile Mbalula and minster Aaron Motsoaledi informed the media that the six passengers who went for precautionary screening tests aboard the AIDAmira are all negative @TimesLIVE @WesternCapeGov @VandAWaterfront pic.twitter.com/BNXrtclRCx— Esa Alexander (@ezaap) March 18, 2020
Mbalula also announced new regulations that will prohibit the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers at eight sea ports.
"In terms of these regulations, no passenger vessels will be allowed in our ports. In essence, there is a total ban on cruise ships. This affects all leisure travellers," he said.
"With effect from today, no cruise ships will be permitted to call into South African ports nor will any be allowed to leave our shores."
The regulations will also prohibit crew changes for all types of vessels, including merchant ships.
"We are aware that in the normal course of ship operations, the local ship workers [stevedores and other dock workers] do come into contact with ship crews. This is one point of possible contamination that we have requested port authorities to manage," said Mbalula.
"Personal protective equipment and wear has to also be provided to these workers."
All sea port operations and cargo handling work will continue and cargo ships will still be allowed to call into SA ports to offload and load cargo, as the current regulations and measures do not prohibit trade.
"This is to minimise the adverse effects of the virus on our economy and our global trade position," said the minister.
The new regulations will also provide for the operating authority to improve hygiene by regular sanitisation as a preventative measure to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Key staff and those on the "front line" have to be provided with protective personal equipment and wear, he said.
Mbalula said the port health section of the national department of health had heightened screening of personnel and individuals at ports of entry and also at six of the eight sea ports. "The screening is important and will be continuous to identify possible cases. Two sea ports that don’t have port health capability are Mossel Bay and Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape."
The regulations will also prohibit a gathering of more than 100 people at a sea port. The movement of workers and people also has to be managed to limit human interaction and promote social distance, he said.
Mbalula said the regulations would strengthen the hand of SA agencies and entities in the maritime sector, including Samsa, the Ports Regulator of SA and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).
The regulations take effect on Wednesday, as earlier announced by the president and as gazetted today, he added.