DURBAN – Fourteen crew members aboard a cargo ship from India to Durban have been placed in isolation after one of them died during the ship’s 14-day journey to South Africa.
The 14 each been tested for the coronavirus and are awating their results.
The ship from Indian has been docked at the Durban harbour since Sunday. Teams at the port have been urged to halt operations with the rice-carrying vessel. The cause of death has not been revealed.
The news comes on the back of an interview with Talk Radio 702 in which the acting director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Professor Adrian Puren, said they could not rule out the possibility that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India might be in the country.
“It is possible that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India has reached our shores because of travel. It is really critical for us to have a track and trace and quarantine process activated in order to ensure we have reduced transmission,” he told 702.
On Monday, the senior clinical adviser and head of infection control at Netcare, Dr Caroline Maslo, said that although Covid-19 screening was performed at South African border posts, that could not rule out new cases and potentially new variants entering our country, either directly from their country of origin or via connecting routes.
Maslo confirmed that a patient who recently travelled from India was treated in isolation for Covid-19 at one the group’s hospitals.
“We remain vigilant in maintaining strict safety precautions in our facilities and apply an abundance of caution in treating all patients. Generally, South Africa’s Covid-19 test positivity rate is still relatively low at 5%, and although we remain cautiously optimistic for now, it remains vital that every person does their part and practises prevention measures including social distancing, hand washing, sanitising, wearing a mask covering both the mouth and nose, and avoiding poorly ventilated areas,” she said.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the Health Department has noted the concerns raised about the B.1.617 variant.
“We wish to reassure citizens that there are no direct flights from India and that all our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimise the importation of Covid-19.
“We are currently on high alert to screen passengers and test those who require further assessment,“ he said.