UPDATE: We are glad to be back on home soil, say South Africans repatriated from Doha

2020-05-06 20:45
German citizens stand in a queue at the Cape Town stadium, ahead of their repatriation flight to Germany. (Aljoscha Kohlstock/News24)

German citizens stand in a queue at the Cape Town stadium, ahead of their repatriation flight to Germany. (Aljoscha Kohlstock/News24) (Aljoscha Kohlstock)

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A Qatar Airways plane carrying more than 200 South Africans, who were repatriated from Doha's Hamad International Airport, landed in Johannesburg on Wednesday night. 

This after they were left stranded in Qatar on Tuesday after the aircraft had to turn around on the runway, which resulted in them sleeping at the airport before departing on Wednesday morning. 

The aircraft landed just before 20:00. 

Speaking to News24 upon arrival, Tyler Goncalves said he was relieved to finally land on home soil. 

Goncalves, who worked in the hospitality industry in Doha, said upon landing they were screened and would be taken to a quarantine site afterwards.

"It's a big relief. In Doha, we entered lockdown pretty early and we all stayed in a residential compound together. It's nice to just be home knowing that I am closer to my family. It feels a lot better," the 25-year-old added.  Another passenger, Clinton Collard, who was also stranded at the airport on Tuesday night, said he was happy to have finally landed.He said they were waiting for other passengers to have their passports stamped, adding he believed they would be transported to a quarantine site in Sandton."It's good to be back on SA soil. I am very relieved," Collard added.

Earlier, the Department of Public Works told News24 it was ready to receive the returnees.

To avoid Monday night's situation when hundreds of people were stuck on the tarmac at OR Tambo International Airport after landing from Washington DC, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille's spokesperson, Zara Nicholson, said this would not be the case for the group who landed on Wednesday evening. 

READ | A citizens in Washington DC frustrated as they struggle to get SAA tickets

"We were notified about that flight on Monday, and were initially told it was coming on Tuesday, which it didn't. In any event, we carried on procuring the site, it was ready as of yesterday. And will be ready for the repatriates tonight [Wednesday]."  

Nicholson said the department had experienced difficulties because it was informed late about the arrival of flights, and this had slowed down its procurement processes.

She added an agreement was in place in which the department would be given a 72-hour notice about the arrival of repatriation flights.  

JUST IN: Govt has changed the rules on when vehicles are allowed on the road | @BISouthAfrica https://t.co/d2TdJbw0si pic.twitter.com/3dMkj4R6Zs

— News24 (@News24) May 6, 2020

"That's the reason why that situation happened on Monday because we were not given the agreed notice in time. But the department then had those sites ready. 

WATCH | About 200 repatriated South Africans stranded at OR Tambo airport without food and water

"Again now, with the Qatar flight, we were notified on Monday, which is not 72 hours in advance, but we did the procurement. Just the fact that it's not within 72 hours puts the department in a difficult position, but it was done, so we are ready for that Qatar flight tonight [Wednesday]."

Nicholson said the department was now getting ready because many flights, regardless of changes, were coming in from all over the world.  

Sites

The department said it would continue procuring and getting sites ready in the event flights started landing unannounced. 


"That's the reason why that situation happened on Monday because we were not given the agreed notice in time. But the department then had those sites ready. 

WATCH | About 200 repatriated South Africans stranded at OR Tambo airport without food and water

"Again now, with the Qatar flight, we were notified on Monday, which is not 72 hours in advance, but we did the procurement. Just the fact that it's not within 72 hours puts the department in a difficult position, but it was done, so we are ready for that Qatar flight tonight [Wednesday]."

Nicholson said the department was now getting ready because many flights, regardless of changes, were coming in from all over the world.  

Sites

The department said it would continue procuring and getting sites ready in the event flights started landing unannounced. 

While some have blamed the problems on the government not having enough quarantine sites procured for repatriates, Nicholson said this was not the case.

She added the department was procuring as many sites as possible to accommodate people who needed to be quarantined when they arrived in the country. 

Outlining the national number of quarantine sites to date, Nicholson said 1 418 have been identified, representing more than 109 000 beds across the country. 

She added once sites were proposed, they were assessed by the Department of Health, which then decided whether it met the criteria. 

Nicholson said to date, 328 sites had been assessed and deemed compliant, representing 24 884 beds. Of these, 114 facilities had been activated, representing 11 685 beds available for quarantine requirements. 

Of the sites, 636 are state-owned and 782 are privately owned. 

"To date, a total of 5 443 infected individuals have been quarantined. Some of the 5 443 quarantined in recent weeks have been discharged as they were cleared after the 14-day incubation period."

Read more on:    department of public works  |  repatriations  |  coronavirus  |  lockdown
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