WALVIS BAY – Forty-three crew members on a fishing vessel have tested positive for coronavirus, sparking fears of wider human transmission within the industry. Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula yesterday announced that 43 crew members, including two foreign nationals, aboard a fishing vessel tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while more cases were reported in Walvis Bay and two in Windhoek.
The vessel has been at sea for more than 20 days and was denied entry at the port of Walvis Bay pending the results of the initial two crew members who eventually tested positive. There were 73 crew members in total on board Campa del Infanzon vessel, including the two cases, who had to be removed from the vessel after displaying flu-like symptoms.
Local unionist Paulus Hango yesterday told New Era that the fishing industry was warned well ahead of time and advised to prohibit crew changes to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
According to Hango, it is shocking that crew members tested positive when being at sea should have been the safest place for them, given the current situation at Walvis Bay, which has become the coronavirus epicentre, with more than 400 positive cases reported at the harbour town.
“We knew what the implications would be if one of them tested positive; hence, we signed a memorandum agreement with various fishing companies on 10 April this year, which allows crew members and fisheries observers to remain on vessels,” said Hango.
“The agreement also made provision for companies to provide food and basic needs to the families of crew members to avoid them disembarking from the vessels.”
He added it was the responsibility of fishing companies to make sure their employees are safe at all times. There was no immediate comment available yesterday, despite several attempts made to the management of the company that owns the vessels.
Erongo health director Anna Jonas yesterday told New Era that the positive crew members would be placed in an isolation facility, and their contacts will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
Meanwhile, CEO of Fisheries Observers Agency Stanley Ndara said one of their employees tested positive, resulting in the offices being closed for the next seven days.
“The observer was on a different vessel; however, we are still waiting for results of two other observers that were on the same vessel with the 43 crew members that tested positive,” Ndara said. Apart from the 43 crew members, 12 others also tested positive, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases to 593. Shangula also yesterday clarified that a newborn baby, who had tested positive for Covid-19 last weekend, has tested negative and the case is de-registered.
“The baby was tested too early – that is five hours after delivery. The results came out positive as we have reported then. As per international standards, the baby was re-tested after 24 hours and then 72 hours after delivery. Both results came out negative. We, therefore, conclude the initial result was contamination from the mother,” said Shangula.