Government planning Covid-19 mercy repatriation flight from Brazil


The government is preparing to evacuate South Africans who can get to its embassy in Brazil ahead of a flight out on Wednesday morning, with a compulsory 14 days' quarantine on arrival.

South African Ambassador to Brazil, Ntsiki Mashimbye, said the repatriation would take place on 8 April, adding 61 people have been confirmed for the flight.

"It gives me the greatest of pleasure to report back to you that in the early hours of the eighth of this month we will be able to evacuate or repatriate you back to your country where you will be united with your friends, loved ones and families," Mashimbye said in a video message.

Some of the evacuees travelled from Peru and Mexico. Most were on a cruise liner.

Being able to join the flight from Brazil also depends on whether their host countries such as Chile will let them travel to Brazil, given the worldwide restrictions on travel and border closures.

The government is helping with this where it can.

"The closure of borders has resulted in bureaucratic nightmares for all countries and South Africa is faced with similar challenges," Mashimbye said.

READ | From lockdown to quarantine to lockdown: Ramaphosa sends repatriates on a new mission as they head home

People who want to get on the flight must contact the South African embassy in their host country.

An SAA flight was due to leave Johannesburg, via Cape Town, to São Paulo on Monday, carrying Brazilian citizens from South Africa, according to the South Africa embassy in Brazil.

South Africans are set to arrive at Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo at 18:00 on Tuesday for screening and verification.

They are supposed to check-in at the airport at 22:00, with the flight departing for Johannesburg at 02:00 on Wednesday.

Evacuation and quarantine package

Guarulhos is the only departure airport and therefore all South African nationals should make their way to São Paulo.

However, there are strict terms – it is an "evacuation and quarantine" package with no exceptions.

They will be subjected to screening before boarding, and people showing symptoms of Covid-19 will not be allowed to travel and will be subjected to the host country's health requirements.

READ | Repatriated citizens from Wuhan to vacate The Ranch after testing negative for coronavirus

On arrival, all passengers, irrespective of risk category, will undergo screening, testing and be subjected to a mandatory quarantine for a period of 14 days at government-managed facilities.

This means no travelling home to meet family or friends until after the quarantine period.

Quarantine facilities are not at hotels or lodges, instead halls and conference centres have been identified and will be adapted accordingly.

There will be no choice of facility.

Registration critical

Quarantine will be funded by the South African government.

Passengers will be transported to these centres directly from the airport by bus.

"Should you wish not to be quarantined then you are advised not to return to South Africa during the current national lockdown," the notice read.

All passengers who are currently in Brazil and who wish to board this flight must be registered at the South African Embassy in Brazil or the South African consulate-general in São Paulo.

All passengers who are travelling from outside of Brazil to São Paulo must complete their registration through the South African diplomatic missions in their host countries. Passengers travelling from outside Brazil will not be allowed to leave the international transit area in São Paulo.

Registration is of critical importance.

Before arriving at Guarulhos, all passengers will need to ensure that they are registered on the embassy passenger list for submission to the Brazilian authorities, South African authorities and South African Airways. They must also have their citizenship verified and agree to be screened prior to departure, and agree to be tested on arrival and understand that the 14-day quarantine period is mandatory.


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