More S. Africans request to be repatriated from China

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday gave a briefing on plans to return more than a 150 South Africans home and place them in quarantine.

Dr Zweli Mkhize addressed an inter-ministerial committee briefing on the country's plan to evacuate citizens and quarantine them locally. Picture: Department of Health.

JOHANNESBURG - More South Africans living in China are coming forward to take up the government’s offer to be repatriated from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday gave a briefing on plans to return more than 150 South Africans home and place them in quarantine.

At least 12 more South Africans made contact with government since the briefing indicating that they too wanted to leave Wuhan.

“We still really hope that everyone living in Wuhan - whether they want to be repatriated or not - will at least let us know that they’re there. And we have had an indication from about 16 that they don’t want to come back,” said the health department’s spokesperson Lwazi Manzi.

Meanwhile, the South African Medical Association chairperson Angelique Coetzee said they were pleased with how government was handling the repatriation process.

“The way that the government is doing it is according to the World Health Organisation guidelines. As long as they stick to those guidelines, there should be no problem,” she said.

It would still take at least two weeks for government to make the necessary arrangements for South Africans to come home.

They would then be placed in quarantine for some time before being reunited with their families.

WATCH: A day in the lives of South Africans in Wuhan

At the same time, Mkhize said on Sunday the government had identified all South Africans who needed to be evacuated from coronavirus-hit China, but would still assist anyone else who stepped forward.

The health minister said the military would be deployed to screen and quarantine all evacuees for 21 days or until they test negative and then they would be reunited with their families.

“If the lockdown is eased, we will evaluate that and we need to look at how we deal with the situation where people might be coming back with no specific restrictions. We don’t consider it a waste of money, we think that we should respond right now as our South African citizens are requesting,” Mkhize said.