President Cyril Ramaphosa has wished the military well in their mission to bring 122 South Africans back home from the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan. An SANDF team has embarked on a flight from OR Tambo to Wuhan to bring the South Africans home.
Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mhkize earlier did a tour of health and screening facilities at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. COVID 19 has claimed more than 4 000 lives globally, mostly in Wuhan. The flight departed at 9pm Tuesday evening.
President Ramaphosa has thanked the military and health officials for their willingness to execute the important mission. On board the flight will be the aircraft crew, members of the National Defence Force as well as officials from the Department of Health.
The President told the soldiers that he remains proud of them in this very important mission to bring back 121 South Africans. He said their patriotism is what’s most touching to the nation. The mission is the first if it’s kind in the country.
Mkhize, says none of the South Africans in China have coronavirus but will still be quarantined and tested as part of health requirements when they arrive back home from Wuhan.
Mkhize says special precautions will be taken. “This team is going to go and fetch people who are well. We will keep screening them to check if we find someone has got an infection, we will take them out and take them for treatment, so in the area where they are going to be quarantined, it’s just a health requirement that they come from an area that had a very high infection rate. Whilst they are not sick, we want them to wait there. We will want to watch the symptoms. If the evidence of the virus if it doesn’t appear, when we are done with that we will test them again then we let them go home.”
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize had said that 184 South Africans in Wuhan had indicated that they wanted to return home.
Last week, Mkhize dismissed claims that SANDF members were refusing to evacuate the South Africans living in Wuhan.
Acting Health Director-General, Anban Pillay, says provision will be made for more South Africans who wish to return from the city of Wuhan, in China.
Pillay has provided details of the flight’s planned route and repatriation procedure.
“ So the flight goes from Johannesburg to the Philippines, it has to refuel – they will have a stopover. I think 48 hours is what it’s going to be and they will move on to Wuhan. They will pick up the students, refuel and then fly non-stop back to South Africa. By the way, they’re not only students there are also teachers and other people in the group as well. They have their meeting point which they’ve been using for other countries as well. That’s where they will be picked up from. The aircraft will be on the ground for 8 hours. The last number I received from International Relations is 121 that have confirmed but I suppose when the aircraft lands we’ll find out exactly how many are going to be coming along.”