Authorities looking for MSC passengers after two tested COVID-19 positive

MSC Orchestra cruise vessel. Credit: HASENPUSCH. DIETMAR

South Africa’s Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, has called for passengers on two MSC Orchestra cruises earlier this year to come forward, after two of the passengers tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Speaking at the Port of Durban, Mkhize said the health department was looking for passengers aboard the MSC Orchestra cruise that left Durban on 28 February to the Portuguese island and returned on 2 March, as well as the second cruise on the vessel that left on 13 March and returned on 16 March.

The minister was in the port city to welcome home six South African crew members from Queen Mary 2, who were given special permission to leave the ship after appeals to the government from their families. South Africa imposed stringent lockdown on 26 March, which only allows people to leave their homes to buy food or medicine, or if they work in essential services.

The regulations also forbid passenger embarkation and disembarkation, as well as crew changes at all South African seaports, except under certain circumstances.

Queen Mary 2 left Australia on 16 March with about 1,226 people on board. As it made its way towards South Africa, we asked that the passengers and crew to not disembark as we had set up very strict regulations,” Mkhize said.

The vessel anchored offshore on 27 March and requested permission to dock at the port for bunkers and supplies.

“It turned out that a number of people on the vessel exhibited symptoms and the ship was not allowed to dock just yet. A total of 26 passengers were tested and had to wait for their results. They all tested negative,” he said.

The ship eventually docked on 31 March. The six crew disembarked and have gone into a 14-day quarantine.