Statement On Detected Cases of COVID-19 at Ports of Entry
We have registered the great concern South Africans have expressed over possible recent importation of variants of concern (VOC's).
This has been a difficult area during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can often drive exclusion, mistrust and sometimes even racist rhetoric. We share our people's concerns but wish to reassure South Africans that we are a very capable nation that knows how to deal with the burden of a variant of concern. Our teams remain on high alert to survey, detect and contain spread of COVID-19 in general, with heightened awareness of travelers from countries where VOC's are dominating.
We confirm that the B.1.617 variant, circulating widely in India, has not been detected, however the genomics teams are working on some samples and we will need to allow the time it takes to sequence before we get an answer.
We wish to remind South Africans that the variant B.1.351 (or 501Y.V2) remains the most dominant in South Africa and indeed we have had confirmation that one of the samples taken from a traveler from India is the 501Y.V2.
We remain mindful of the advise from the World Health Organisation that all variants are managed the same- prevention by adhering to NPI's, early detection, contact tracing and testing and quarantine or isolation. These all form part of the regulations that govern the management of COVID-19 and it has been through adherence to these regulations that we have detected and contained COVID-19 cases at ports of entry. Recently increasing activities have been reported as outlined below:
Three air travelers from India, via Doha on two separate occasions (one arrived on 21 April 2021 on Qatar Airlines- QR1367- and two arrived on 25 April 2021) on Qatar Airlines (QR1367); all through King Shaka International Airport.
The first passenger subsequently took ill and remains in isolation at a health care facility. whilst the other two passengers are currently asymptomatic and in isolation at paid lodgings. Port Health has provided details of passengers who were close contacts and NICD have overseen the cases for sample collection, contact tracing and intensified surveillance.
On 1 May 2021, a death on board an approaching vessel was reported to Port Health by SAPS. the assistant harbour master and the vessel agent. The vessel had departed India on the 18 April 2021 and berthed at Maydon Wharf on 2 May 2021 with the deceased. The body was subsequently transported to a state mortuary for a post mortem- due to sampling difficulties, authorities still await the PCR test result.
However contact tracing proceeded for 21 crew members- of those 14 have been detected with COVID-19 and 7 have tested negative. As all the members are asymptomatic, it was elected to keep all the crew on board in appropriate quarantine or isolation conditions. The vessel has been secured and is currently under strict security in its berth until authorities decide to move it to the outer anchorage under strict security until the containment period is successfully completed.
We thank eThekwini Metro, through eThekwini Centre for Disease Control, for ably managing these incidences and swiftly mobilizing the containment measures at municipal level.
On 25 April 2021 a vessel that had departed from Mombasa, Kenya, berthed in Gqeberha-some 12 days after departure. The ship was granted access based on a report by the shipmaster that there were no reported illnesses on board. The following day the shipmaster reported an ill crew member, who was immediately transferred out of the ship to a health care facility.
The ill crew member together with 3 other crew members who were due to depart by air to their home country were immediately subjected to PCR tests on the 26 April 2021. Upon testing positive for COVID-19, these crew members were subsequently isolated at paid lodgings.
Port Health, together with Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA), instructed the shipping agency to proceed with contact tracing and testing processes, with 20 crew members on board subjected to PCR tests. A further ten crew members have been detected with COVID-19 and are isolating for 10 days at designated facilities. The other 10 members that tested negative will remain in quarantine on the ship
The officials of the Nelson Mandela Bay Health District will be responsible for monitoring the crew who are in isolation and to also complete the containment measures. The vessel has been similarly secured in port to ensure that there is no unauthorised access to and from the vessel.
It is deeply unfortunate that the master of the vessel is found to have made a false declaration regarding the health status of the vessel and crew. SAPS has activated consequence management procedures and engaged the state prosecutor.
We wish to put on record this ship was bound for India (and it had not departed from India).
This increase in detection of cases at the ports of entry is of deep concern to us as government and we have been attending to this as a matter of urgency. We have consulted the Ministerial Advisory Committee as well as the genomics team to guide us on the management of travelers at ports of entry during these challenging times. The government will be determining the next steps to follow and announcements will be made on the state of variants of concern in our context and what measures will be implemented to mitigate against the importation of COVID-19 in general.
Issued by Dr. Zwelini Mkhize Minister of Health, 4 May 2021
COVID-19: One vessel under investigation in the Port of Durban
[Durban, South Africa, 4 May 2021] South African port landlord Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) has confirmed that the Chief Engineer of the Eaubonne vessel berthed at the Port of Durban on Sunday, 2 May 2021 passed away due to a heart attack. The Filipino crewed vessel was a 17 day direct sail from India to the Port of Durban.
As a requirement for the next port of call all crew members of the vessel Eaubonne were tested for COVID-19 and cleared. Upon arrival at the Port of Durban as a standard precautionary measure all crew members were tested and 14 of the crew members tested positive. The entire vessel is currently in quarantine at the Port of Durban as per COVID-19 Regulations. As part of the COVID-19 protocols, the crew contact tracking and tracing is being undertaken.
The vessel is currently under lockdown and the Port Health has assigned a team to go on board and check on the crew members.
TNPA is responsible for ensuring that all vessels calling the port have been cleared by relevant state organs namely, Port Health, Migration, MRCC and customs before entering or leaving the Port.
TNPA is also tasked with ensuring compliance of safety of navigation of vessels, safety of life and safety of environment in the Port.
Issued by Transnet, 4 May 2021