Aircraft ready to bring back South Africans from coronavirus-hit Wuhan
Pretoria - The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) facilitating the repatriation of South African citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan - the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak - said on Thursday it had secured an aircraft for the evacuation.
“The aircraft with the capacity to bring back the citizens in Wuhan has been secured. An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments including health, home affairs, social development and the defence will form part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa,” government spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement.
“They will be working with the Chinese authorities to screen the group of South Africans before they depart the epicenter 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 [be] transported home.”
The government however said negotiations with a number of service providers at the premises chosen to be the quarantine area had not yet been concluded.
“There is no specific venue that has been confirmed. We can however reassure that this work will be concluded in the not so distant future. We therefore wish to discourage any speculation about possible sites,” said Williams.
“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.”
She also urged members of the public not to spread fake news regarding the coronavirus, but rather rely on bona fide and legitimate sources of information from the department of health.
Williams reiterated that there are no reported cases of the virus in the country, adding the department of health was continuing to monitor the situation closely and had put plans in place to deal with any possible detection.
The NatJoints also welcomed news that two South Africans working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, who initially tested positive for COVID-19, had now tested negative and would shortly be making their way home.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last month announced plans to repatriate South Africans from Wuhan in China's Hubei province who had been in lockdown following the outbreak of the virus and had requested assistance to come back home.
The Chinese embassy in Pretoria said South Africa's decision to evacuate citizens was an "understandable" one to address the anxiety and concern of its citizens and families resulting from over one month of quarantine "in a city far away from their motherland".
African News Agency/ANA