Cape Town – The 122 South Africans evacuated from a lockdown in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, are expected to arrive in the country today.
They will be quarantined for between 14 and 21 days on arrival.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu urged the public not to flock to the quarantine site where the repatriated citizens will be.
He did not name the quarantine site because “it will defeat the purpose of isolating South African citizens if we were to tell everybody as everybody will go there”. The site will be in a Limpopo hotel.
He also allayed fears that those repatriated were carrying the virus.
“All the South Africans coming home are healthy. They have not contracted the virus,” Mthembu said.
Mthembu said every precaution was being taken to safeguard against any surge of Covid-19 and urged citizens to continually practise preventative measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus. “We appeal to all to respect the privacy of Covid-19 patients and their families.
“We also strongly caution against the dissemination of any false information related to the virus so as to prevent the spread of fear, stigma and discrimination within our society.”
In a statement, the Presidency said: “We strongly caution people against attempting to make any physical contact or attempting to visit the quarantine zone.
“Once the quarantine period ends, and tests confirm no underlying Covid-19 virus infections of our compatriots, they will be released back into their respective communities.”
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced four new Covid-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 17.
Mkhize will lead a special Cabinet meeting planned in Tshwane this weekend to discuss matters related to the pandemic, including travel bans, public leisure, faith-based or sporting events.
Mthembu said: “Cabinet decided to have this special meeting where we will look into all these areas. So far the Cabinet has not expressed any travel bans. We can assure you that after this very important meeting, we will be able to answer the questions we are not able to address now.”
The SA Post Office, meanwhile, said mail would be delayed.
“Mail to and from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Bangladesh is briefly delayed as SAPO’s air carrier partner suspended service. The mail will be delivered immediately when a new air carrier is contracted.”
Agri SA executive director Omri van Zyl said they were expecting supply chain and logistical disruptions that might cause harm to export-driven agricultural sectors.
“The Covid-19 has sparked fears of a global economic slowdown. South African agriculture exports approximately 25 commodities to a value of more than $10 billion (R165bn) annually.
“The current uncertainty of the markets and the subsequent global economic slowdown is adding additional pressure on the debilitating South African economy.
“The growing impact of the Covid-19 coincides with the announcement of a 1.4% retraction in our economy as well as a decline of 7.6% for agriculture in the fourth quarter of 2019,” said Van Zyl.
He said it was difficult to quantify the economic impact on South African agriculture.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions that will last 30 days. The restrictions will come into effect from midnight today.