The process to repatriate 122 South Africans living in Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak – was triggered on Tuesday night, setting in motion a series of phases to ensure they arrive in South Africa safely and healthy on Friday morning.
Speaking to Bongani Bingwa on Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday morning, GCIS Acting Director-General Phumla Williams assured listeners that passengers will be tested for Covid-19 continually.
Williams said that the plane, which left from OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night, will stopover in the Philippines to refuel before proceeding to Wuhan.
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“They will be processed through the normal immigration of China, so their records have got to be in line with the Chinese government,” Williams said.
“Thereafter they will be departing from Wuhan and we are expecting them in the early hours of the morning on the 13th.”
She added passengers will be tested before, during and after their flight.
“There is no room for us to stop checking them. Before they board the plane, they will be pre-screened. Should they in any way present symptoms, they will not be brought back home,” Williams said
She added the airport was also been prepped to receive them.
“From there they will be taken to the venue where they will be quarantined for precautionary measures for a minimum of 14 days, but it can go on to 21 [days], but the minimum is 14 days,” Williams said.
No physical contact with family
“At this point, we are opting not to say where they will [be quarantined] but I’m sure with time South Africans will know.”
While in quarantine, they will not be able to physically interact with their families but may do so telephonically.
Williams said some South Africans opted to stay in China for various reasons and stressed that those coming are virus-free.
While the location of the quarantine area is still unknown, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize previously noted that it would meet the necessary health and security requirements, News24 reported.
He said upon release the group of South Africans will still be monitored and government will stay in contact even after quarantine.
On Tuesday, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) left for China on a chartered flight to repatriate the group, News24 reported.
President Cyril Ramaphosa saw them off, thanked them for their service and inspected the airport’s readiness to deal with Covid-19.