SA citizens in Wuhan: Govt's evacuation about-turn and repatriation logistics
The South African government has done an about-turn on evacuating citizens in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China.
After initially deciding it was not necessary to bring them home, the presidency announced that 132 of the 199 South Africans in the city are to be repatriated.
On Weekend Breakfast, the acting director general at the the Department of Health, Dr Anban Pillay, explains the decision and gives an update.
He says the initial decision to let South Africans living in Wuhan remain there was based on the anticipation that the epidemic would be brought under control.
There was a time when there were decreasing numbers and the feedback we were getting from the ground in China was that the lockdown in Wuhan would actually be lifted and people will be free to move around.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
It seems [now] that the epidemic is not under control, so the lockdown could not be lifted.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
How long will it take to get these South African citizens back home?
Pillay points out that this will require special logistical arrangements as there is no public transport currently in Wuhan to get them to the airport.
We're working with the Chinese to work out where each person lives to see how we get them there... the timing about when an aircraft leaves here to collect them needs to be linked to those kinds of logistics.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
He explains that they'll all be tested before boarding the aircraft.
Once back in South Africa, they'll be taken directly to a quarantine facility. Everyone who's been in contact with them, like the crew of the plane, will also remain in quarantine.
We've extended the 14-day period to 21 days because we have to do testing etcetera, so we've given ourselves some additional time on either side in case there are delays in the results etcetera.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
Pillay also gives an update on the two South Africans on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japanese waters who've tested positive for coronavirus. They're being kept in isolation
The latest information I have is that they are asymptomatic, as would be 80-90% of people that are infected.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
They are not receiving any care currently because it's not necessary because they're otherwise ok except for a fever, as I understand.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
The remaining ten South Africans are being taken off the ship in phases together with their fellow crew members, to be placed in quarantine in a facility provided by the Japanese government.
I spoke to one of them. They are comfortable in the environment, obviously not happy to be in quarantine but once they complete the 14-day period they may be cleared then to leave Japan and return home.Dr Anban Pillay, Acting director general - Department of Health
Pillay confirms that South Africa has yet to report its first case of infection.
Listen to the update and details of the control measures South Africa has in place:
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