Families will not be allowed to visit those repatriated from China during quarantine

Dr Zweli Mkhize. File photo.
Dr Zweli Mkhize. File photo.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

South Africans being repatriated from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan in China will be treated with dignity inside a quarantine zone once back on home soil — guarded by the military.

Families and other visitors will not be allowed to visit during the 21-day quarantine period, said health minister Zweli Mkhize.

The purpose of the quarantine is to isolate a group of COVID-negative people who’ve been exposed to a high risk environment, remove them from that high risk environment, and then allow the incubation period to lapse before being integrated into society, he told a briefing in Johannesburg on Sunday.

There are 151 South Africans who want to join the precautionary evacuation, which is expected to take place within seven to 10 days time. The details of where they will be housed is not yet public knowledge. The Sunday Times reported this would be a resort in the Free State province.

Mkhize was addressing a briefing by the inter-ministerial committee assigned to deal with the repatriation and quarantine of citizens from Wuhan.

He said 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, though authorities will discourage group meetings.

No family members, friends or associates of those under quarantine may visit the zone.

There will be a “no mans land” strip to accommodate the collection of goods. Zero contact will be allowed between the deliverers and the collectors.

“Legal action will be taken against any individual that goes against the stipulated regulations in relation to quarantine,” Mkhize warned.

So far, no-one inside SA has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mkhize said as at February 26, 121 people have been tested for coronavirus and all the results were negative.

Two South Africans on board a cruise ship in Japan have tested positive, and are receiving treatment there.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the planned evacuation last week, saying, “cabinet has decided on this course of action after due consideration of the circumstances, and after several requests from the families of South Africans in the city.”

“These compatriots are now living under lockdown conditions (in Wuhan) after the outbreak of the coronavirus. None of the affected individuals has been diagnosed with the virus nor have they exhibited any symptoms thereof. Upon arrival in SA, they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure.”

Ramaphosa said the departments of health and defence would deploy health care personnel and supporting staff to provide assistance during the repatriation and quarantine processes. The department of international relations & cooperation would deploy consular services personnel and the home affairs department would provide immigration services. In addition, the department of social development would offer trauma counselling and support.

The COVID-19 virus (coronavirus), was first reported in Wuhan, China, in November 2019.

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