Transnet said the ship with a Filipino crew departed directly from India. (Representative)

Johannesburg:

Fourteen crew members of a freighter that sailed to Durban from India have tested positive for COVID-19, South Africa’s national port authority Transnet said.

A spokesperson for Transnet said the cause of death of a chief engineer on board the ship was a heart attack and not COVID-19.

The 14 were part of the full crew that was tested after the ship arrived in Durban on Sunday. They are now all isolated as authorities launch a tracking and tracing initiative for anyone who may have come into contact with them.

“The vessel is currently in quarantine. No one is allowed to leave or enter the vessel, and the company responsible for anyone who has worked on board must track and trace all employees who have interacted with the vessel in question,” Transnet said on Tuesday.

A senior port official, who requested anonymity, told a news portal that at least 200 port workers had been working on the ship since Sunday evening, manually unloading around 3,000 tonnes of rice.

“The rice came in 50 kg bags. We are a little worried because a lot of people have boarded this ship since Sunday,” the source said.

Transnet said the ship with a Filipino crew departed directly from India, where it had been tested for COVID-19 and cleared according to requirements.

“Upon arrival at the port of Durban, as a standard precaution, all crew members were tested and 14 of them tested positive for COVID-19. The entire vessel is currently in quarantine at the port. of Durban, in accordance with COVID-19 regulations, ”Transnet said.

All operations with the vessel have been suspended.

The authority said it remains vigilant to ensure all ships calling at the port have been cleared.

“The TNPA is responsible for ensuring that all ships calling at the port have been cleared by the relevant state bodies, namely, port health, migration, MRCC and customs before entering or leaving the port. port, ”he said.

News of the incident sparked widespread concern on social media, fearing that the new B.1.617 variant, which was causing thousands of deaths in India on a daily basis, could reach South African shores.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize assured the public that plans were in place to test all arrivals to the country, reminding them that there were no direct flights from India.

Mkhize, however, expressed concern that people arriving from India via other countries could be a challenge.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)