The Department of Defence, in particular the South African National Defence (SANDF), has confirmed that it is part of a multidisciplinary team that is in support of the Department of Health and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as instructed by the President and Commander in Chief of the SANDF, to repatriate South African citizens from the COVID-19 hit city of Wuhan in China.
The SANDF said today that at present, there are approximately 151 South African citizens that are expected to be repatriated.
“Once all the logistics have been confirmed by the planners who are busy with the planning of the operation, the repatriation process will then commence. The repatriation planning process is currently at an advanced stage and takes into consideration everything related to the logistics for the operation.”
An announcement was made last week by President Cyril Ramaphosa to bring South Africans in China not infected by the virus back home. It said, in part, “The departments of Health and Defence will deploy healthcare personnel and supporting staff to provide assistance during the repatriation and quarantine processes. The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) will deploy consular services personnel to provide consular assistance. Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will provide immigration services. Department of Social Development (DSD) will offer trauma counselling and support”.
At the weekend Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize elaborated saying the evacuation component “will be undertaken by the military in co-operation with DIRCO and the Chinese authorities”.
It is understood an aircraft will be chartered for the repatriation process. Once back in South Africa there will be a quarantine period of at least 21 days. Mkhize did not give any specific location but indications and speculation are a former military base at Thaba Nchu in Free State is the most likely site. The base is used by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in its national rural youth service corps initiative of which the SANDF is part.