Covid-19 In SA: More than 5 600 German and EU citizens repatriated since start of lockdown
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Pretoria - The German government has repatriated more than 5 600 of its citizens and other European Union (EU) citizens who became stranded in South Africa when the country imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The German repatriation flights, which were operated by South African Airways (SAA) started on April 3 and ended with the last flight leaving Cape Town on Wednesday.
"We are incredibly glad that we were able to bring so many of our compatriots home. This has been an outstanding team effort. Our heartfelt thanks go to the wonderful colleagues at South African Airways, who impressed us with their professionalism, flexibility and kindness throughout this process,” said German ambassador to South Africa Martin Schäfer.
“I would also like to thank all our other South African partners without whom this huge repatriation effort would not have been possible – from our colleagues at Dirco (Department of International Relations and Co-operation) to the health authorities, airport staff, traffic police and the Western Cape government.”
The flights targeted German tourists who had been stranded in South Africa due to the lockdown and the cessation of commercial air traffic. The repatriation flights organised by the German government were also open to citizens from other EU member states. The returning flights also brought home some South Africans who were stranded in Germany.
"We had people from almost every EU country present on our flights. That’s European solidarity in trying times. We’re all in this crisis together. That’s why I am also very pleased that SAA was able to bring back South African citizens on the return trips of our repatriation flights from Germany,” said Schäfer.
The German embassy in Pretoria said the repatriation flights from South Africa were part of a worldwide effort by the German government to bring its citizens home amid the global coronavirus crisis.
Around 240,000 tourists have travelled back to Germany from countries across the world.
Despite the easing of some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday announced that the country’s borders would remain closed except for repatriations, and travel between provinces in the country was also prohibited.
“Our borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens. No travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances, such as funerals,” Ramaphosa said in a much-anticipated televised national address.