Not all SA citizens in China will return

Not all South African citizens in China want to come back home.
Not all South African citizens in China want to come back home.
Image: REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Not all South Africans in the coronavirus-hit city of Wuhan in China want to come back home.

The South African government will undertake a military operation to bring back home under 200 citizens who are in China, but health minister Zweli Mkhize says not all of them have expressed a wish to be repatriated.

Mkhize said there were 201 people living in Wuhan, 151 of whom wish to be brought back home while 36 have not been contacted as yet.

"Sixteen citizens have indicated that they do not wish to return, they are still comfortable and they would like to be assisted wherever they are but without having to come back," Mkhize told the media yesterday.

"There was also a South African citizen who elected to be repatriated with Indian citizens who were recently evacuated. At this stage through Dirco [department of international relations and cooperation] we are making an effort to locate the remaining 36 South Africans in Wuhan that we are trying to find so that we can just get them to indicate what their situation is."

Mkhize was detailing a plan to evacuate South African citizens from the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan city as per instruction of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

He said the evacuation was at the request of the South Africans in China.

An aircraft will be chartered to China to fetch the locals who, upon their return, will be kept in isolation for a total of 21 days at a military base in the Free State, according to the Sunday Times.

"All the support staff that will be handling the quarantine process will also [undergo] [the same process]..." Mkhize said.

Coronavirus has not been detected within the borders of SA, however, there are two South Africans working on a Japan Diamond Princess ship who have tested positive.

Mkhize indicated that those who will be brought back in the military operation have not been infected with coronavirus but will be kept in quarantine as a precautionary measure.

"The people who we are bringing in are South Africans who are healthy and as far as we are concerned they are not infected. We only want to take precautions to allow the tests to be done so that at the period during which virus should be incubating, we should then confirm that they didn't get infected and therefore they can be released," the minister said.

"It's a very important precaution that should be respected because the risk of anyone just walking straight from the high outbreak area into society is that if they caught the infection on the last day they've got about 14 days within which we will not see any symptoms. Thereafter, by the time we intervene, they would have probably infected other people."

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