SA COVID-19 repatriation plans on track


The latest Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) update on evacuation of South African nationals from China confirms “an aircraft with the capacity” has been secured.

The statement, issued by Phumla Williams on behalf of NATJOINTS, notes an inter-disciplinary team from departments including Health, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Department of Defence (SA National Defence Force) will be part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa.

She did not give a date for the flight from China to South Africa, or say where in South Africa the aircraft would land.

“The inter-disciplinary team will work with Chinese authorities to screen the South Africans before they depart the epicentre of Wuhan.  With the support of the South African Embassy in China, a ground transport plan is being put in place to ensure all citizens to be evacuated are safely brought to a central collection point from where they will be transported home.”

Information as to the South African end of the evacuation is sketchy with Williams quoted as saying “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 to finalise this critical area of work and there is no specific venue confirmed.  We are reassured this work will be concluded in the not so distant future”.

NATJOINTS confirms through the Department of Health there are no reported cases of the virus in South Africa.  The Department of Health continues to monitor the situation and has plans in place to deal with any possible detection of the virus.

“Port Health has doubled efforts to screen all travellers at all ports of entry.  Travellers visiting South Africa are subjected to health screenings before they disembark from flights or enter the country.  NATJOINTS is pleased to advise 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,” the statement said.

A statement issued earlier this week by Department of Defence head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, indicated the South African military would be involved in the evacuation of about 150 South Africans, the majority reportedly students, from China.

He did not elaborate on which services and units of the national defence force would be involved. The SA Air Force (SAAF) Command Post will, even though it is a not a SAAF asset used for the flight, monitor the aircraft flying the South Africans home. Whatever site is selected for the 21 day quarantine period will be guarded by soldiers, probably from an SA Army Reserve Force unit with SA Military Health Services (SAMHS), probably through one of the five medical battalion groups, actively involved.