Update: Cape Town ships negative for COVID-19

Cape Town Cruise Terminal. Credit: Waterfront Cape Town

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has confirmed that test results for the first suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case in any South African seaport have come back negative.

Earlier this week, two vessels – the general cargo MV Corona and the luxury passenger liner AIDAmira – were held off port limits outside the Port of Cape Town. The cruise liner was later allowed to dock but its approximately 1,700 passengers and crew remained on board pending test results from one suspected COVID-19 case and seven others who had possible contact with him.

“These precautions and testing were set in motion after a crew member from the MV Corona bulk vessel fell ill with typical COVID-19 symptoms following the vessel’s departure from the port on 11 March,” said captain Dennis Mqadi, TNPA’s executive manager for Safety Health Environmental & Regulatory Oversight.

“Upon further investigation, it was confirmed that the ill crew member had flown into Cape Town from Istanbul, Turkey, earlier in March with another MV Corona crew member, and that six passengers from the AIDAmira cruise liner had also been on this flight before boarding their vessel in Cape Town. The individuals had to be checked due to their possible contact.”

The negative result means that to date there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any of the country’s ports. “But we will remain on high alert after this first scare and will keep working with the port health unit of the Department of Health to manage vessels who report potential cases,” said captain Sabelo Mdlalose, acting chief harbour master at TNPA.

Port health has now granted clearance for both vessels to continue their journeys from the Port of Cape Town.

The AIDAmira passengers will be allowed to disembark in the Port of Cape Town and return to their respective countries.