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Coronavirus in SA: Repatriation of foreign visitors in full swing

Scores of foreigners converged on Cape Town Stadium where they were scanned before being transported to the airport. Picture: Tracey Adams African News Agency (ANA)

Scores of foreigners converged on Cape Town Stadium where they were scanned before being transported to the airport. Picture: Tracey Adams African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 11, 2020

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Cape Town - Hundreds of foreign nationals trapped in South Africa continue to leave as governments negotiate repatriation flights.

Since April 3, as many as 10 flights departed from the Cape Town International Airport to take hundreds of tourists stranded in the province due to the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.

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On Thursday, another group of German and Belgian nationals left the province as more foreign nationals negotiate for the return of their citizens.

As many as 300 gathered at the Cape Town Stadium for screening before buses picked them up to take them to the airport for their outbound flights.

According to the Belgian embassy in Pretoria, around 310 stranded visitors and tourists were part of the group being sent home, this included around 50 citizens from other EU countries via Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Western Cape government said 600 people had sought to be repatriated to their home countries, adding that only foreign nationals who had made the necessary arrangements with their consulates or embassies and had the necessary paperwork were being permitted to depart.

For Belgian citizens Christelle Janssen, 55, and her 86-year-old mother Christiane Rosemont, they managed to get home on Thursday night on a chartered SAA flight to Brussels after being in the country for four months.

Scores of foreigners converged on Cape Town Stadium where they were scanned before being transported to the airport. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The pair was visiting relatives in the country and were meant to leave on March 31 but couldn’t after their flight was cancelled.

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“We were here visiting my sister and brother-in-law but couldn’t go back home because of the lockdown,” she said.

“We got in touch with the Belgian embassy and they were able to organise a flight for us but it came at a steep price.

“Upon our arrival, we had a return flight ticket which we had paid 800 (R18000) per person for but now we had to pay 600 for a one-way return ticket each.

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Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

“But we are glad to be going home, I have a home and a job to get back to even though the factory I work at is closed,” she said.

The US also repatriated around 900 of its citizens from South Africa on three flights on Thursday and yesterday from Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal headed to Washington.

“We are rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and as of (Thursday) the Department of State repatriated over 52000 citizens, on over 519 flights from over 98 countries,” said US ambassador, Lana Marks.

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Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The UK High Commissioner to South Africa, Nigel Casey also announced that around seven flights had been secured with Virgin Atlantic airline to take citizens back home. The first flight departed from Cape Town on Thursday morning. 

Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Casey said the dates for subsequent flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town woud be communicated at a later stage once the government gave the

go-ahead.

Weekend Argus

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