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Update on efforts to bring South Africans in Coronavirus-hit Wuhan home

Mar 5, 2020
Update on efforts to bring South Africans in Coronavirus-hit Wuhan home

An aircraft with the capacity to bring back South Africans from the Coronavirus hit Wuhan City in China has been secured.

“An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments including Health, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Defense Force will form part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa,” the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The team will be working with the Chinese authorities to screen the group of South Africans before they depart the epicentre of Wuhan. 

“With the support of the South African Embassy in China, a ground transport plan is being put in place to ensure that all citizens who are to be evacuated are safely brought to a central collection point from where they will transported home,” the NatJOINTS said.

A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated back home. 

Most of these South Africans are students, teachers and other professionals currently working in Wuhan.  At this stage only seven South Africans in Wuhan have opted to remain in Wuhan City.

There are no reported cases of the virus in the country. 

“The Department of Health is continuing to monitor the situation closely and has put plans in place to deal with any possible detection of the virus. Port Health has also doubled its efforts to screen all the travellers at all Ports of Entry,” the NatJOINTS said.

Travellers visiting the country are being subjected to health screenings before they disembark on flights or are allowed to enter the country. 

The two South Africans working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess who initially tested positive for COVID-19 have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way home.

“Negotiations with a number of service providers to serve as a quarantine area have not yet been concluded. At this stage the technical team is working hard to finalise this critical area of work and there is no specific venue that has been confirmed,” the NatJOINTS said.

The NatJOINTS have discouraged any speculation about possible sites, which some media houses have been reporting in their respective platforms.

“The NATJOINTS appreciates the responsible reporting by members of the media and sharing of educational information by members of the public on this key operation. Members of the public are requested to stop spreading fake news regarding the Coronavirus,” the NatJOINTS said.

The NatJOINTS has condemned the intimidation of potential service providers.

“We have also received some disturbing reports, of some of the potential service providers being intimidated. This intimidation makes it very difficult for government to speedily conclude preparations,” the NatJOINTS said.

Family members who require more information about their loved ones who will be repatriated can contact the Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO) on email address: ciccn@dirco.gov.za and telephonically on (012) 351 1754. – SAnews.gov.za

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