South African President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered repatriation of nearly two hundred citizens from the central Chinese city Wuhan, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, his office said in a statement.
Radical quarantining measures helped slow the rate of transmission in China of the virus, which can cause pneumonia, but it is picking up pace outside the country.
The statement said 132 of 199 South Africans currently in Wuhan under lockdown conditions requested to return home.
“None of the affected individuals has been diagnosed with the virus nor have they exhibited any symptoms,” the statement said.
“On arrival in South Africa they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure.”
The coronavirus — COVID-19, as the new strain is called — is thought to have originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan last year. It has infected about 80 000 and killed more than 2 700, mostly in China.