Coronavirus: SAA Airbus carrying 114 SA citizens repatriated from Wuhan lands in Polokwane

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A group of 114 South Africans who were repatriated from Wuhan City, China, the epicentre of the corona virus outbreak, have arrived back on African soil. 

The updated figure of those being evacuated was given by national health department spokesperson Popo Maja on Saturday, just after the chartered SAA flight ZS-SND Airbus landed at Polokwane airport at 10:30. 

The group had departed from Wuhan at around 21:00 (SA time) on Friday. 

Some roads leading to and from the Polokwane Airport were closed as logistics to ferry the group got underway. 

The SANDF chartered Airbus had a smooth landing as journalists watched from a distance. 

Three buses, under heavy SANDF and SAPS guard, then escorted the group to Protea Hotel's The Ranch Resort where they will be quarantined for 21 days. 

Passengers step into a bus on March 14, 2020 in Jo
Passengers step into a bus on March 14, 2020 after disembarking from a South African Airways Airbus A340-600 plane. Image: AFP 

READ | This is why a Limpopo resort was chosen as the quarantine site for SA's Wuhan evacuees

The flight crew, including the staff and members of SANDF and SAPS on the mission, are also expected to be quarantined for the period as a precautionary measure to ensure they are not infected with the novel virus, which broke out in Wuhan in December 2019. 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has over the past few weeks emphasised that the group were not sick and would be quarantined in the area to ensure they are safe from the virus. 

The four-star hotel, which is 25km out of Polokwane CBD is where the group will be monitored and examined by medics throughout the period. 

On Friday Mkhize announced that a healthcare centre, isolation rooms and ambulances were in place at the venue. These will play a role in the event of an emergency. 

The minister has also emphasised that the crew is not sick but were being monitored after being in China which is on lockdown following the outbreak of the virus. 

24 cases

South Africa currently has 24 positive cases of the pandemic. The government said it was doing everything in its power to ensure that the virus is traced, prevented and cured for those who have contracted it. 

The news that the quarantine site would be in Limpopo has not been welcomed, with some organisations even threatening shutdowns. Limpopo premier, Stan Mathabatha, speaking during an inter-ministerial briefing at the venue on Thursday said government had engaged with communities to assure them not to panic. 

The premier said an awareness program on corona virus would get underway, and would include spreading the message during the Zion Christian Church’s Easter pilgrimage.

Mathabatha assured that the provincial government was doing its best to deal with fears over the spread of corona virus in Limpopo.

For more on the coronavirus and the experiences of South Africans living in Italy under quarantine, listen to our podcast on SoundCloud.

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