The dean of the foreign diplomatic corps in KwaZulu-Natal, Andrzej Kiepiela, is impressed by the response of the SA government in tackling the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he warned that a strained economy because of the pandemic is the next major hurdle for the country.
Kiepiela was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a meeting with the provincial government, which had assured diplomats that the province and the country were well-equipped to handle the global virus.
“What is challenging now is the economic impact it will obviously have. The tourism industry and religious gatherings have a huge impact on the commercial, financial and employment side,” he said.
He said there were many foreign citizens in SA.
“We have nationals who come here on holidays and they have to be repatriated. Today, we discussed the technicality of how to help each other and how to facilitate their arrival here, and onwards when travelling to their respective countries.”
Kiepiela believed the country’s reaction to the coronavirus was “within the context of the global reaction to those challenges”.
“The closure of flights from the US states and most European countries, and South Korea and other countries, has a huge impact on everybody, but it is necessary.
“Nobody in government, or the diplomatic side, has questioned the actions of world leaders, including SA and KZN, of how they are going about this. That is good because nobody is trying to run their own personal or individual agenda. It is one agenda for this city, for this province, and for this country.”
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said “it is important to engage” because SA had many international partners.
“There are South Africans in these respective countries, and we will have to explain the process of [re-entering SA] to them as it has been explained from the directives from a national level.”
He said SA citizens coming from other countries, particularly high-risk ones, would have to be screened.
“Based on the country and the exposure, they will be tested. Based on this, some will be placed in places of quarantine and go through an examination process where they will be properly assessed.”
Zikalala said it could take up to two weeks for some to go through proper testing.
“These are South Africans who would be coming back because they were out on business or other trips. When they return, they would have to go through that process.”