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WATCH: Minister reveals evacuation, coronavirus quarantine plans for SA citizens in China

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 1, 2020

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Cape Town – Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize indicated on Sunday that it would take between seven to 10 days to complete the evacuation of South African citizens from Wuhan, China, following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had wanted it to commence immediately after the cabinet decided on this course of action on Friday after due consideration of the circumstances and following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city.

Mkhize indicated at a media briefing in Johannesburg that there had been constant communication with South African citizens in Wuhan and monitoring of the situation.

A total of 151 South Africans living in Wuhan have chosen to come home, while 16 have indicated they do not wish to return and 35 have not been contacted yet.

Even though those returning are healthy, Mkhize said they would be quarantined on arrival in South Africa. It will be implemented in three phases: evacuation, quarantine and reunification. 

Should someone develop coronavirus symptoms, they will be immediately isolated.

The evacuation process will "be an exercise undertaken by the military in co-operation with Dirco and Chinese authorities", Mkhize said.

A multi-disciplinary medical team will be on board the aircraft for pre- and in-flight screenings and medical care. Those who do not meet the medical screening requirements will be referred to the Chinese health-care system.

The quarantine sites will be no-entry zones and guarded by the military. Though Mkhize did not indicate the location of the quarantine sites, the Sunday Times reported that the base will be in the Free State. 

"All South African citizens from Wuhan city that wish to be repatriated will be accommodated and brought back in a chartered aircraft under strict quarantine protocols that will be enforced," Mkhize said.

"Should the patient test positive for coronavirus, they would immediately be transferred to a designated referral facility.

"Should there be multiple cases of coronavirus, the project would be escalated to a multi-isolation system whereby quarantine members would then be confined to their rooms for the entire duration.

"We have noted that other areas of China do not represent a high risk for exposure to Covid-19 and so the citizens under lockdown in Wuhan have been prioritised."


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