5 March 2020
A week ago the President announced the decision to repatriate South Africans currently residing in Wuhan. The decision was prompted by their request to be repatriated back home. Subsequent to this announcement a multidisciplinary team of Ministers (Health, Social Development, SAPS, Home Affairs, DIRCO and SANDF) was constituted. This team is supported operationally by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) which has commenced with the logistical arrangements.
On Sunday (01 March 2020) the Inter ministerial task team, held a media briefing to provide an update on the repatriation and to date the logistical plans are at an advanced stage. A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated back home. Most of these South Africans are students, teachers and other professionals currently working in Wuhan. At this stage only seven South Africans in Wuhan have opted to remain in Wuhan City.
The aircraft with the capacity to bring back the citizens in Wuhan has been secured. An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments including Health, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Defense Force will form part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa. They will be working with the Chinese authorities to screen the group of South Africans before they depart the epicenter of Wuhan. With the support of the South African Embassy in China, a ground transport plan is being put in place to ensure that all citizens who are to be evacuated are safely brought to a central collection point from where they will transported home.
Negotiations with a number of service providers to serve as a quarantine area have not yet been concluded. At this stage the technical team is working hard to finalise this critical area of work and there is no specific venue that has been confirmed. We can however reassure that this work will be concluded in the not so distant future. We therefore wish to discourage any speculation about possible sites, which some media houses have been reporting in their respective platforms.
We have also received some disturbing reports, of some of the potential service providers being intimidated. This intimidation makes it very difficult for government to speedily conclude preparations.
The NATJOINTS appreciates the responsible reporting by members of the media and sharing of educational information by members of the public on this key operation. Members of the public are requested to stop spreading fake news regarding the Corona virus. Through the leadership of the Department of Health, updates and reliable information on the COVID-19 situation are provided. We encourage the public to make use of bona fide and legitimate sources of information from the Department of Health.
The NATJOINTS also confirms that through the Department of Health, there are no reported cases of the virus in the country. The Department of Health is continuing to monitor the situation closely and has put plans in place to deal with any possible detection of the virus.
Port Health has also doubled its efforts to screen all the travelers at all Ports of Entry. Travelers visiting the country are being subjected to Health screenings before they disembark on flights or are allowed to enter the country. The NATJOINTS is pleased to have been advised that the two South Africans working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess who initially tested positive for COVID-19 have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way home.
Family members who require more information about their loved ones who will be repatriated can contact the Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO) on the following contact details: Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Telephone number: 012 351 1754.
Government wishes to thank all the families for their cooperation and share their excitement at having their loved ones safely home soon and also expresses appreciation for their understanding and support and undertakes to continuously provide update on this relatively complex operation.
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