South Africa bans cruise ships over coronavirus

South Africa bans cruise ships over coronavirus

South Africa on Wednesday imposed a blanket ban on cruise ships entering its ports, the country's latest step to curb the spread of coronavirus, a minister said. 

Cruise ship stranded off S.Africa coast over virus fears

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula spoke as more than 1,700 people werestranded on a ship, docked in Cape Town harbour, owing to fears that some might be carrying the virus.

"With effect from today, no cruise ships will be permitted to call into South African ports or will any be allowed to leave our shores," Mbalula told a news conference in Cape Town.

Unveiling new regulations, Mbalula also declared that "no passenger vessels will be allowed in our ports.

"In essence, there is a total ban on cruise ships. This affects all leisure travellers," he said as South Africa's coronavirus tally surpassed 100 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

READ: SA imposes new rules over coronavirus

However, in a bid to not hamstring South Africa's already ailing economy which fell into recession in the final quarter of 2019, cargo ships will be continue to operate.

Transnet, South Africa's maritime authority on Tuesday said it "held off port limits" the Italian-flagged cruise liner AIDAmira which had sailed to Cape Town on Sunday from neighbouring Namibia.

More than 1,700 people have been stranded since Sunday as South African authorities fear that some passengers may be carriers of the COVID-19. 

Six of the AIDAmira passengers had previously travelled on the same flight with a person who exhibited coronavirus symptoms. 

However, South African authorities said on Wednesday that all six tested negative for the virus, according to Sobantu Tilayi, the CEO of South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

"The next thing is to disembark these people," said Tilayi, referring to the 1,700 passengers.

The vessel was no longer under quarantine and on Thursday officials will discuss the procedures to offload the passengers.

"We've requested the port authorities to give us their names, their addresses, where they are going so that we can track each one of them leaving the ship," he said.

Mbalula said six other passenger vessels were making their way towards South Africa as the new law took effect.

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Last month, the cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined off the coast of Japan and more than 700 people of the 3,700 passengers and crew on board tested positive for COVID-19. 

South Africa has so far recorded 116 positive cases, the most in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most cases affect people who recently returned from abroad, but the number of local infections is increasing.

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