Polokwane’s Ranch Resort declared quarantine site for evacuees from Wuhan

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the SANDF-led mission is expected back by the end of the weekend and all aboard the flight will be quarantined for at least 14 days until they are cleared.

The Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Thursday announced that The Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo, would the quarantine site for South African evacuees from Wuhan, China.

Mkhize said the South African National Defence Force-led mission was expected back by the end of the weekend and all aboard the flight would be quarantined for at least 14 days until they were cleared.

“A decision has now been made that this site is the one that will be used. There have been agreements signed with the owners of this particular place and work done with the staff. We want to confirm that after this place is a quarantine area, no media is allowed,” he said.

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The minister said 84 sites around the country were considered and three were shortlisted including Thaba Nchu in the Free State and another site in KwaZulu-Natal.

He said the Limpopo resort was found to be the most suitable due to the number of rooms, catering services, and proximity to a landing area for the arriving aircraft and airlifting anyone who needed treatment.

Mkhize appealed to Limpopo residents to remember that the evacuees were not sick or positive and that their quarantine was only statutory.

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Meanwhile, Mkhize apologised for references made to a Chinese businessman who was said to have infected a patient in the Free State. He corrected a report that said the Free State man had tested positive after being in contact with the Chinese businessman. That means the number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 16, not 17 as initially reported on Thursday.

The minister said the test was done at a local private laboratory in an attempt to decentralise testing, however, confirmation from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) found the result was negative.

But Mkhize maintained it was more important to communicate quickly than to wait for fake news to overtake reporting by the Department of Health.

“We had mentioned that the individual had worked with a Chinese businessman but not that he had been to China or any part where the infection is rife. It was not supposed to mean that someone was confirmed as positive and therefore that contact and in such an instance such a reference was made, so we want to indicate publicly that we withdraw that and we regret that such a reference was made,” he said.

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At the same time, government promised it would be transparent about information around coronavirus patients in South Africa.

Misinformation and fabricated social media messages left South Africans on edge as there was still much that was unknown about the global pandemic.

“Remember no one has ever had to face this kind of situation and because of that we will find ways of how we are going to deal with the situation. At the workplace, you’ll find that there will be mistakes and corrections need to be done,” Mkhize said.