The South African government has outlined plans to repatriate South Africans from the Coronavirus hit Wuhan City in China.
“We have been able to ascertain that there are approximately 199 South Africans living in Wuhan and of those, 147 have indicated a wish to be repatriated. Amongst these are students, who have completed studies and students whose studies were interrupted by the lockdown,” said the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
South Africans are being repatriated from Wuhan City, as per the President’s directive. Cabinet has decided on this course of action after due consideration of the circumstances, and following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city.
Addressing a media briefing on Sunday in Johannesburg, the Minister said 16 citizens indicated they do not wish to return.
“There was also a South African citizen, who elected to be repatriated with Indian citizens, who were recently evacuated by the government of India.
“In response to the plea by our citizens to return home, Cabinet instructed the inter-ministerial committee to effect plans to evacuate and repatriate the citizens,” the Minister said.
Last December, Chinese authorities announced the emergence of a novel Coronavirus, which was the causative agent for an outbreak of respiratory disease.
On 30 January 2020, due to the emerging worldwide spread of the virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
This virus has now come to be known as COVID-19. To date, there has been no case of COVID-19 in South Africa.
“At this stage, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), we are making an effort to locate the remaining 36 South Africans in Wuhan,” Mkhize said.
The Minister has appealed to families, who may have relatives in Wuhan, to contact DIRCO on 012 351 1754 and 012 351 1756, email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The Repatriation Process will be implemented in three phases, namely Evacuation, Quarantine ad Reunification. It’s guided by the WHO guidelines and the relevant South African laws and policy framework.
This will be an exercise undertaken by the Military in co-operation with DIRCO and Chinese authorities.
“All South African citizens from Wuhan City, who wish to be repatriated will be accommodated and brought back in a chartered aircraft under strict quarantine protocols that will be enforced.
“There will be a Multi-Disciplinary Medical Team on-board the aircraft that will be responsible for pre- and inflight screening and medical care,” Mkhize said.
All nationals, who do not meet the Medical Screening Requirements during pre-screening, will be referred to the Chinese Health System.
A Port of Entry has been prepared for the receipt of the South Africa nationals, flight crew and medical team. All support staff coming into direct contact with the repatriates will also fall into the quarantine protocol.
Human contact and mixing of groups will be limited in the entire quarantine process.
“The very nature of the quarantine exercise is to isolate a group of COVID negative people, who have been exposed to a high risk environment, remove them from that high risk environment, and then allow the determined incubation period to lapse before being integrated into virgin society,” the Minister said.
A quarantine facility that meets all the requirements has been identified.
“There will be a perimeter line that will be guarded by the military. Within that perimeter, the area will be declared a no entry zone and a no flight zone. Those under quarantine will not be allowed to exit the perimeter but will be allowed to move freely within the perimeter,” Mkhize said.
He said no-one will be allowed to enter the zone.
There will be a “no man’s land” strip to accommodate the collection of goods, whereby there is zero contact between the deliverers and the collectors.
“I must reiterate that no family members, friends or associates of those under quarantine may visit the zone. Support staff at the facility will also be subject to quarantine protocols,” he said.
The entire quarantine period will be 21 days duration to allow for arrival and phased exit.
“Legal action will be taken against any individual that goes against the stipulated regulations in relation to quarantine.
“There will be a medical facility installed, as per standard military procedures and the quarantine facility will be collaborating closely with the designated facilities for Coronavirus in the country,” the Minister said.
On arrival, all quarantine members will be briefed and tested, and there will be screening done at predetermined intervals.
“Should someone develop symptoms, they would be immediately isolated for further testing. 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,” the Minister said.
He said for every incident of confirmed Coronavirus, the quarantine period starts again at D- Day (or day one).
Assuming the quarantine period is incident free, the final day of quarantine will be denoted by all members testing negative for Coronavirus.
The members will then be given final counseling and then granted leave to depart.
There will be continued contact with citizens thereafter.
All affected equipment, venues, facilities will be subjected to decontamination protocols.