Polokwane residents warm up to Wuhan group as awareness of coronavirus sinks in

A SANDF soldier stands at the entrance of The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort in Polokwane. (Guillem Sartorio / AFP)
A SANDF soldier stands at the entrance of The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort in Polokwane. (Guillem Sartorio / AFP)

The panic initially displayed by Limpopo residents to a hotel in Polokwane - The Ranch Resort - being used as a quarantine site has now been replaced by compassion and acceptance as the reality of the coronavirus in South Africa takes root.

A week ago, the South African government repatriated 112 citizens from Wuhan in China, where the coronavirus outbreak began. They are currently quarantined at the resort, situated 25km outside Polokwane. 

The plan was initially met with hostility by several residents. However, News24 asked some locals in the streets of the city whether they still felt the same way a week later.

While the Department of Health announced that all 112 members of the group tested negative, they do have to spend the mandatory 21 days in isolation before they will be allowed to leave.

Gladys Ledwaba, who is employed at a national retail store chain, was one of the people who initially had a negative attitude about the local quarantine site.

"I, for one, was one of the people who did not approve of the government's plan to bring those people here. But now I'm 100% supportive after learning more about the coronavirus.

"It could have been one of my relatives. We should all show support and learn more, so as to stop the spread of this disease," she said.

WATCH | 'I was touched, watching our children inside those buses'- Polokwane residents react as SA evacuees arrive

Another resident, Collin Mailula, said she had been under the impression that the coronavirus would spread faster in the area because of the presence of the Wuhan group.

"Now I know better. That was a good move by the government. Imagine if they were not quarantined. I just hope we get over this disease and continue with normal life," Mailula said.

However, some people, like Matthew Madimetja, are not as optimistic.

"In Limpopo, we are never given a chance to host major events. Why bring people suspected of having the coronavirus here?" he asked.

Most people around the city are now much more aware of the disease and are taking precautions not to be infected. 

The majority of retail shops in the CBD have placed sanitisers at their entrances and employees have been supplied with gloves.

On Friday, Transport and Community Safety MEC Dickson Masemola visited liquor outlets and interacted with patrons to ensure compliance with restrictions.  

All liquor outlets have been ordered to close at 18:00 Mondays to Saturdays and 13:00 on Sundays and public holidays.

The provincial health department also changed visiting hours at hospitals, imposing restrictions on visitors.

Hospitals only allow two visitors per day, per patient. One visitor is allowed at the bedside but can only spend 15 minutes with the patient.

"Any other visits outside the prescribed period has to be authorised by the attending doctor, and prior arrangement must be made," the department said in a statement.

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