'We thought we were going to die and we did not want to die away from home' - Wuhan repatriate

FILE IMAGE: South Africans boarding buses that took them to The Ranch Resort, about 25km outside Polokwane.
FILE IMAGE: South Africans boarding buses that took them to The Ranch Resort, about 25km outside Polokwane.
Image: Courtesy of Moleli Molefe Limpopo Office of the Premier

"We thought we were going to die and we did not want to die far from home."

These are the words uttered by one of the people who had been in quarantine for 14 days in Limpopo following their successful repatriation from the coronavirus epicentre in Wuhan city in China.

Mphetha Motaung is one of the 114 South Africans who will, from tomorrow, be reuniting with their families after weeks of uncertainty. He, along with others, were repatriated from Wuhan in Hubei province during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic that has now engulfed the whole world.

The group were repatriated in a military operation headed by the SANDF, in collaboration with the health department and the South African Airways, after having spent weeks in isolation in China.

The 114 had been quarantined in a Polokane hotel (25km south of the city centre)   for two weeks.“We would like to thank you for repatriating us because we really thought we were going to die and we did not want to die away from home,” Motaung said.

“We’d like to also thank NDoH [national department of health], members of the SANDF, members of the SA Embassy for accompanying us regardless of being in an environment where there is [danger of] coronavirus.”

He said that the repatriates were all thankful that they all took a decision to volunteered to leave their families to undertake the dangerous mission.

“We’d like to thank the chief pilot, Vusi Khumalo, and the SAA crew for risking their lives to come and collect us from the epicentre; we thank you so much.”

The health department will from tomorrow start transporting the repatriates to their homes to reunite them with their families.​

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