Strict curbs on SA citizens coming home
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.