Plane to leave OR Tambo on Tuesday night to collect SA citizens quarantined in Wuhan

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A man crosses an empty highway road in Wuhan.
A man crosses an empty highway road in Wuhan.
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A flight is scheduled to leave OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday night and return with 122 South Africans quarantined in Wuhan, China, amid the global coronavirus outbreak, the inter-ministerial task team handling the repatriation process has confirmed.

They are expected back in the country on Friday.

"On board the flight will be the flight crew from the aircraft company and a total of 15 officials from the Department of Health and the Department of Defence (Military Health)," the task team said in a statement on Tuesday night.

"After [a] stop-over in the Philippines, the aircraft will fly to Wuhan City. Upon arrival, the team will work with our Chinese counterparts but also the staff of our Embassy in China, screening our repatriates and checking required travel documents.

"The flight will leave Wuhan City in the early hours of the morning and land back in South Africa on [Friday]. In due course, announcements will be made about the arrival of the South Africans."

The group is made up of teachers and other professionals currently working in Wuhan where the deadly virus originated.

READ: Some South Africans decided to stay put: 'We won't leave Wuhan'

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last month that the government was planning to repatriate them after they expressed a desire to return, News24 reported.

At a briefing on 1 March, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize outlined South Africa's plan to evacuate them.

He said those who were returning home had not tested positive for Covid-19 and would be quarantined for a further 21 days upon their arrival.

According to the task team, this would be extended should any person display symptoms thereafter.

"After the mandated quarantined period, those citizens who are cleared will be reintegrated to the communities and be reunited with their families.

"We urge South Africans to welcome these fellow citizens with warm hands as they begin to rebuild their lives in the country after what has been a very trying time for most repatriates."

On Monday, the health department announced seven people were being treated after testing positive. They were part of a group of 10 people who had visited Italy on a skiing trip.

Six are from KwaZulu-Natal, while one is being treated at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Gauteng.

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