Confusion over government's conflicting messages about South Africans in China
Questions about President Cyril Ramaphosa's call to South African citizens living in Wuhan in China to return home amid the coronavirus outbreak have raised questions about inconsistencies on the part of government.
Mail & Guardian reported that international relations and health department officials said China had better medical services to deal with the virus, and that no one would be brought back to South Africa.
SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE reported that, in January, health minister Zweli Mkhize said there was no need for the government to evacuate any South Africans in China.
At the time Mkhize said: "We are confident in China's ability to manage the public health emergency effectively and that our citizens living in China are in safe hands.
“There is no evidence to support repatriation or emergency evacuations of our citizens at this stage. There has been no report of any South African who has contracted the infection.”
Mkhize said there were two South Africans who were under a 14-day quarantine. The two had moved from Wuhan city to a neighbouring municipality in China.
On Thursday night, the presidency said Ramaphosa had directed the repatriation of SA citizens from city in Hubei province, a massive u-turn from what government had previously said.
According to the presidency, there are 199 South Africans citizens in Wuhan, and 132 of them expressed the desire to be repatriated.
“It was decided to repatriate the South Africans after due consideration of the circumstances, and following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city,” said the presidency.
“Upon arrival in SA, they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure.”
The deadly virus originated in Wuhan and has killed more than 2,000 people and infected more than 83,000 around the world.
Now 132 South African citizens have expressed desire to return home from China as fears over the virus, named COVID-19, continue to grow.
In addition, two South African citizens working on a cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the virus,SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimeLIVE reported on Friday.
Nigeria has reported the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many have expressed concern over Ramaphosa's call to bring citizens home from China, asking if it was “a wise decision”.
Anyone else wondering what will happen if/when Coronavirus hits South Africa? I look at what China, Korea, Italy etc have done & I seriously doubt SA could implement similar containment controls and/or health care.— PeterS (@douglas0748) February 25, 2020
In South Africa, once a plane lands from any of the Coronavirus worst hit countries (China, Italy etc), health officials move in and check every passenger before they're allowed to disembark.— Malachy Odo II Esq. ? (@MalachyOdo1) February 28, 2020
While we have been advised not to panic in Nigeria, we should really be worried.
Is anyone else concerned about the #CoronaVirus outbreak reaching South Africa? It went from 1 - 130 cases in Italy in 36 hours. They're a 1st world country in Europe.— ???? ????? (@guillum) February 24, 2020
How will we cope @HealthZA? We have millions living in informal settlements. Just one case could be a disaster. pic.twitter.com/BFjfkVQXEx
I must admit now that nigeria has confirmed its first #coronavirus case i am slightly freaking out, knowing first hand how inadequate healthcare on this continent is scares me much more than it should....— ?️??????????️? (@BeardySa) February 28, 2020
In all honesty i dont think africa or #SouthAfrica is ready for it!