SA citizens repatriated from China will be placed in quarantine, says Mkhize
Pretoria - Around 151 South African citizens being repatriated from Wuhan in China amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will immediately be placed in quarantine when they arrive in South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday.
For the past three weeks, government had been consulting stakeholders in the hospitality industry and all spheres of government with a view to identify suitable accommodation facilities for South African citizens who would be repatriated from Wuhan, he said in a statement.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the repatriation following a cabinet decision after due consideration of the circumstances, including several requests from the families of South Africans in the city.
"About 151 South African nationals will be repatriated. They are currently living under lock down conditions following the (COVID-19) outbreak. We wish to reiterate that none of the affected individuals has been diagnosed with the virus, nor have they exhibited any symptoms thereof.
"As an added precautionary measure, it was decided that upon arrival in South Africa these citizens will be placed in quarantine. We can confirm that government is currently sourcing suitable accommodation facilities all over the country. This process is now almost concluded. This includes hotels, game reserves, and resorts in remote areas," he said.
The various facilities had been assessed and once a decision was made to select specific facilities, further consultation with stakeholders, including leaders of society and communities at large, would be undertaken.
"We also assure the public that the quarantine facility will have very strict military security parameters. These are some of the measures that will be put in place to ensure that communities that live nearby such a facility are not in any way exposed and there is no contact with people who will be under quarantine.
"We have now requested all the facilities we have engaged with in the past three weeks to desist from engaging with the media, as this may prejudice government’s planning and compromise security measures meant for the local communities and even the citizens who will occupy the accommodation."
The welfare of all citizens, both in the country and those in Wuhan, was a priority. "We will continue to work towards strategies that are aimed at protecting our own during this outbreak. We therefore express our appreciation to the members of the media who have fulfilled their duties while exercising restraint to allow for government to fulfill its duty to its citizens.
"We have committed to being transparent, keep the media and the public fully informed on all relevant information. We will not renege on this commitment. But we also need the media to respect that people’s lives are involved. They also have a right to privacy," Mkhize said.
African News Agency (ANA), editing by Jacques Keet