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Cruise ship stranded off S.Africa coast over virus fears

More than 1,700 people are stranded on a cruise and a cargo ship off the coast of South Africa’s Cape Town over fears that some of them are infected with coronavirus, the ports authority said Tuesday.

Transnet, South Africa’s maritime authority, said it “held off port limits” two ships after a crew member onboard one of the vessels “began to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19”.

The crew member had been on a flight from Istanbul, Turkey on March 9, with six other people who went onto board cruise liner AIDAmira that sailed to neighbouring Namibia.

“This is the first suspected case of COVID-19 in a South African sea port,” said Transnet.

The crew member flew into South Africa from Turkey and boarded a cargo ship, the MV Corona, on March 11 in Cape Town.

However, he quickly developed symptoms associated with coronavirus and the freighter on which he was working as a crew member returned to Cape Town on March 16.

He has been placed in isolation onboard the cargo vessel MV Corona, along with another crew member he was with on the flight from Turkey.

Authorities later established that six other persons who flew on the same flight from Turkey had boarded a German luxury liner, MV AIDAmira, in Cape Town for a cruise to Namibia.

The six passengers are currently asymptomatic and none of the passengers or crew members on the cruise ship have shown any symptoms.

The cruise-liner spokesman Hansjörg Kunze confirmed to AFP that “six guests with possible contact are being checked.”

“We have arranged flights accordingly in order to bring all our about 1,300 guests home quickly…(but) we are lacking clearance from the local authorities,” he said.

The cruise liner left Cape Town on March 10 and visited Lüderitz and Walvis Bay in Namibia before returning to Cape Town on Monday.

Last month, the cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined off the coast of Japan when some passengers tested positive for COVID-19.

South Africa has so far recorded 62 positive cases, most of them imported from Europe.