Crew member died during the 14-day journey from India to SA

Indian bulk cargo ship quarantined in Durban

The Indian cargo vessel docked at the Durban harbour has been quarantined after a crew member died and 14 others have been taken for Covid-19 testing. It arrived on Sunday transporting rice.
The Indian cargo vessel docked at the Durban harbour has been quarantined after a crew member died and 14 others have been taken for Covid-19 testing. It arrived on Sunday transporting rice.
Image: SUPPLIED

An Indian cargo bulk carrier which docked in Durban harbour on Sunday is being quarantined after a crew member died during the 14-day journey from India to SA.

Sowetan's sister publication TimesLIVE can reveal that 14 of the crew have been isolated pending the results of Covid-19 testing.

This comes as the Indian subcontinent has emerged as the global pandemic epicentre and is reporting more than 300‚000 new Covid-19 cases a day. The new cases and associated fatalities are largely driven by the B.1.617 variant.

Yesterday‚ port authorities were informed to halt all operations and interaction on the vessel,  which had been transporting rice.

A senior port official, who spoke on condition of anonymity‚ said at least 200 port employees had been working on the vessel since Sunday evening.

“The ship arrived on Sunday night at around 8.30pm. One of the crew members had died during the voyage and we were told that it was of a heart attack. This morning we were informed by health officials to stop all operations with the vessel. The captain of the ship remains on board but 14 of his crew were taken away for testing.”

It is understood that at least 3‚000 tonnes of rice had been manually offloaded from the vessel and transported to a warehouse at the port. “The rice come in 50kg bags. We are a bit concerned because a lot of people have boarded that vessel since Sunday.”

A source at the SA Revenue Service's customs division confirmed the information and said health officials from Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) were aware of the matter.

“The vessel is currently on quarantine. No-one is allowed to leave or enter the vessel‚ and the company responsible for anyone who worked on board is to track and trace all employees who interacted with the subject vessel.”

The bulk carrier‚ the name of which is known to TimesLIVE but cannot be revealed at this stage as efforts to contact the owners are ongoing‚ departed from India on April 18 and arrived in Durban on Sunday.

TNPA and the national health department have been approached for comment.

Sowetan's sister publication Sunday Times Daily reported that the third wave could see more than 70,000 deaths if there is a “slow, weak, response” to its inception, but about 7,800 if the response is “fast and strong”.

Released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, these figures, which include Covid-19 deaths in and out of hospital, are according to the latest model by the SA Covid-19 Modelling Consortium.

The researchers said the modelled scenarios “do not yet include the impact of vaccination and do not estimate the timing of a third wave”.

There is “substantial uncertainty” about if and when a new variant might emerge, and changes in population behaviour “remain unpredictable”.

Looking at Covid-19 deaths in hospital (and thus not including excess deaths, 85% of which are assumed to be due to Covid-19), the modellers predict 40,000 will die in a third wave if the response is slow and weak, but if fast and strong the number will be 4,600.

In the second wave the country saw 34,300 Covid-19 deaths in hospital and 18,600 in the first wave. In general, the researchers said, the third wave will not exceed the second wave, unless a new variant appears.


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