Family fears for safety of Wuhan returnee

The airplane repatriating South Africans from Wuhan, China, lands safely at Polokwane International Airport on Friday where buses ferrying them to The Ranch Resort waited. They will be quarantined for 21 days. / THAPELO MOREBUDI
The airplane repatriating South Africans from Wuhan, China, lands safely at Polokwane International Airport on Friday where buses ferrying them to The Ranch Resort waited. They will be quarantined for 21 days. / THAPELO MOREBUDI

A family member of one of the 114 people quarantined at The Ranch Resort in Limpopo is fearful of what could happen to their relative when he comes home after 21 days.

The sister of one of the students repatriated from the coronavirus epicentre in Wuhan, China, who will be kept in Limpopo as a precaution, told Sowetan that they were worried about the stigma attached to the virus in their community.

She said while the family was looking forward to welcoming her brother home
after months of anxiety and uncertainty, they had been on the receiving end of insults from some people. She said that their community was against his return as they believed he would infect them.

"I'm so happy that he made it home safely but I would be at much peace once he is back at our father's house," said the sister, who asked not to be named.

"We've been insulted enough as a family. Worse, people in our community think that once my brother comes back home he will do nothing but infect the whole community."

She said there should be more focus on educating people about the coronavirus in order to dispel the stigma.

Some South Africans, including the ANC Youth League in Limpopo, were opposed to the quarantine site being in the province and the group being evacuated from China. This, according to the family member, was proof that South Africans had lost compassion and humanity.

"This whole ordeal has shown how South Africans have lost their ubuntu as a nation. All they do is care for themselves. We have turned out be a lost and sick society."

Nomfundo Motshabi, the mother of one of the evacuated students, told the SABC that she briefly had a chat with her son before and after the plane landed. Her son, Kamohelo Taole, recently graduated from the Hubei University in Wuhan and was stuck in China for almost two months since the outbreak. The Bloemfontein mother said her son was excited to be home.

"When they arrived we video-called just a little bit because his battery was dying so he told me that 'you know what, finally we are back home and I'm so excited, I can't wait to see you. These 21 days must just be over. I just want to be back and see you guys back home'," she said.

A South African who elected to stay behind will be making his way back into the city of Wuhan as restrictions are being lifted. Sibusiso Sgwane, a lecturer in Wuhan, said he opted to remain behind as he does not believe that the South African government would be capable of containing the spread of the virus.

"In South Africa the situation just started, so we don't know how far it will go. So, imagine moving from a place where the situation has actually stabilised to a country where it has actually just started and we are actually not sure in terms of the readiness there back at home," he said.

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