Strict curbs on SA cit­i­zens com­ing home

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - CHULUMANCO MAHAMBA

THE coronaviru­s quar­an­tine site for about 151 un­in­fected South Africans who are go­ing to be repa­tri­ated from the epi­cen­tre of the virus will be a strict no-go zone.

Min­is­ter of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize was dis­clos­ing the gov­ern­ment’s repa­tri­a­tion and quar­an­tine plan for its cit­i­zens liv­ing in Wuhan City, China or the Hubei prov­ince.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s in­struc­tions to bring home the South Africans liv­ing in the coronaviru­s (Covid-19) area.

The min­is­ter em­pha­sised that there were no con­firmed cases of the virus in South Africa, but added that the cit­i­zens who wished to be repa­tri­ated were a pri­or­ity for the gov­ern­ment.

“It’s not about just telling all South Africans in China to come back, it is about those who are in the epi­cen­tre of the in­fec­tion where the outbreak is high­est and the risk of in­fec­tion is high­est,” he said.

There are about 201 South Africans liv­ing in Wuhan City.

Some 151 of them in­di­cated their de­sire to come home, 16 said they pre­ferred to stay in China and one cit­i­zen elected to be repa­tri­ated with In­dian cit­i­zens who were evac­u­ated by the In­dian gov­ern­ment.

The Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion is try­ing to lo­cate the re­main­ing 36 cit­i­zens.

Mkhize said his depart­ment, with the sup­port of the SANDF, would lead the re-evac­u­a­tion back to South Africa, which would take place within seven to 10 days.

The repa­tri­a­tion process will be in three phases: evac­u­a­tion, quar­an­tine and re­uni­fi­ca­tion.

“All South Africans cit­i­zens from Wuhan City who wish to be repa­tri­ated will be ac­com­mo­dated and brought back in an air­craft that will be un­der strict pro­to­cols of quar­an­tine when they come back,” said the min­is­ter.

There will be a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team on board the plane re­spon­si­ble for pre and in-flight screen­ing and med­i­cal care.

But all who do not meet the pre-screen­ing re­quire­ments will be re­ferred to the Chi­nese health sys­tem.

“All the sup­port staff who will be han­dling the quar­an­tine process will also go into quar­an­tine them­selves to seal the whole chain so that any­one who could be ex­posed will be brought in,” said Mkhize.

Dur­ing the quar­an­tine phase, the gov­ern­ment will take pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures by quar­an­tin­ing them for about 21 days in an undis­closed lo­ca­tion. The fa­cil­ity will also be a no-en­try and no-fly zone.

“No one will be al­lowed to en­ter the zone – not the me­dia, not the fam­i­lies, not the of­fi­cials who want to in­spect from wher­ever, only those who are as­signed are go­ing to be al­lowed to be in there,” Mkhize said.

The min­is­ter said there will be screen­ings done at dif­fer­ent in­ter­vals and any­one who ex­hibits any coronaviru­s symp­toms will be iso­lated and, if found with the virus, will be trans­ferred to one of 13 des­ig­nated hos­pi­tals near the site.

The re­uni­fi­ca­tion phases in­clude coun­selling for the cit­i­zens who test neg­a­tive on the fi­nal day of the quar­an­tine and so­cial work­ers who will in­ter­act with the fam­i­lies. All equip­ment will be dis­in­fected.

The min­is­ter added that the two in­fected South Africans who worked on the Di­a­mond Princess cruise ship in Ja­pan were re­cov­er­ing.

“We’ve been as­sured that they were re­cov­er­ing and when they test neg­a­tive, they are free to re­turn to South Africa,” he said.

The re­main­ing 10 other cit­i­zens work­ing on the cruise ship will be al­lowed to dis­em­bark the ship af­ter they test neg­a­tive for coronaviru­s and sub­jected to a fur­ther 14-day quar­an­tine in Ja­pan be­fore they may be cleared for travel.

The virus has killed al­most 3 000 peo­ple world­wide, the vast ma­jor­ity in main­land China.

The first case con­firmed of the virus in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa was re­ported in Nige­ria last week.Else­where on the con­ti­nent, Al­ge­ria and Egypt have also con­firmed cases of the dis­ease.

“No one will be al­lowed to en­ter the (quar­an­tine) zone Zweli Mkhize HEALTH MIN­IS­TER

ENGLISH teacher Rox­anne Rawl­ins is one of the South Africans who will be re­turn­ing home from Wuhan. How­ever, she has to leave be­hind her Ukrainian fi­ancé, Luri Prinich.

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