Coronavirus: travellers from China welcome in SA, says health ministry

Disembarking passengers don masks at Cape Town International Airport on March 6 2020 amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Disembarking passengers don masks at Cape Town International Airport on March 6 2020 amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The health ministry has moved to clarify that people travelling from China, but not from Wuhan city or Hubei province, are allowed into SA.

Ministry spokesperson Dr Lwazi Manzi said people from other parts of China “have a far lower risk of acquiring Covid-19 than those in Wuhan city or Hubei province.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has maintained there is no restriction on travel or trade with China since the outbreak. Be that as it may, no-one is allowed to purchase a ticket to leave China without having undergone a screening process to ensure there is no risk of a traveller leaving China who may have come into contact with the virus,” she said.

Manzi said these people were screened for the coronavirus when they left China and again when they arrived in SA.

“These travellers do not need to be placed under quarantine when they return to SA and no-one should be pressurised to self-quarantine when they return home,” she said.

Meanwhile, the South African government is yet to repatriate South African nationals who are living under lockdown conditions in Wuhan.

The majority of those awaiting repatriation are students.

“Due to the fact that Wuhan was the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, the exposure for these citizens has been significant. It is for this reason that the repatriation process has to be carried out in three phases, namely evacuation, quarantine and reunification, to ensure there is no risk of further spread of Covid-19 from this particular process,” said Manzi.

“The minister has updated that the plans for this process are on track. South Africans will be informed of all the details of this process once all the administrative and statutory work has been concluded. This was a cabinet decision and the directive was issued from the commander-in-chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa. It is, therefore, a matter that is receiving the highest level of attention, urgency and prudence.” 

While a number of airlines had cancelled flights to China after the outbreak, others continue to operate flights there from SA.


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