14 crew members of a cargo ship that sailed from India to Durban tested positive for COVID-19, according to South Africa’s Transnet National Port Authority.
A Transnet spokesman said the cause of death for a chief engineer aboard the ship was a heart attack, not COVID-19.
The 14 were part of the entire crew who were tested after the ship arrived in Durban on Sunday. They are all now isolated as the authorities are launching a track and trace initiative for anyone who may have been in contact with them.
“The ship is currently in quarantine. Nobody is allowed to leave or enter the ship, and the company that is responsible for everyone who has worked on board must keep track of all employees who have interacted with the ship in question,” Transnet said on Tuesday.
A senior port official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a news portal that at least 200 port employees had been working on the ship since Sunday evening and had manually unloaded about 3,000 tons of rice.
“The rice came in 50 kg bags. We are a little concerned because a lot of people have boarded this ship since Sunday,” the source said.
Transnet said the ship with Filipino crew sailed direct from India, where they were tested for COVID-19 and cleared according to requirements.
“Upon arrival at the port of Durban, all crew members were tested by default and 14 of the crew members tested positive for COVID-19. The entire ship is currently quarantined in the port of Durban according to COVID-19 regulations,” Transnet said.
All operations with the ship have been suspended.
The agency said it remains vigilant to ensure all ships calling at the port have been cleared.
“TNPA is responsible for ensuring that all ships calling at port have been cleared by the relevant government agencies, namely Port Health, Migration, MRCC and Customs, before entering or leaving port,” it said.
News of the incident sparked widespread concern on social media over fears that the new variant B.1.617, which caused thousands of deaths in India every day, had reached the coast of South Africa.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has assured the public that plans are in place to test all arrivals in the country and reminded them that there were no direct flights from India.
However, Mr Mkhize expressed concern that those traveling from India via other countries could be a challenge.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)