The Sunday Times has reported that at least four of the expatriates trapped in Wuhan, China, had to be denied access to the flight from China to Polokwane after it was determined that they had temperatures outside of the normal range.
A fever is often associated with Covid-19 infection, and they were deemed too “high risk” for repatriation.
It had initially been reported that the SA National Defence Force would be bringing 122 South Africans home, but only 114 ended up making the flight, according to information received on Saturday.
There were 146 passengers on board the SAA plane, the Sunday Times further reported.
The group has been put into precautionary quarantine at the Protea Ranch Hotel near Polokwane, and are under lockdown by the SAPS and the military. None of them is thought to be infected but they will be observed for at least three weeks before being given the all-clear.
The group arrived on Saturday morning. A member of the rescue team was quoted as saying it had been “terrible to leave them [the four] behind but there was nothing we could do”.
Video courtesy Sunday Times.
Speaking in Polokwane on Thursday at a media briefing at the hotel about the arrival of the group from China, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the Ranch resort was identified as a quarantine proximity point following a breakdown of talks over the initial quarantine point, which had been in the Free State.
Mkhize said the first 14 days would be the most critical, as two weeks is known to be the period that the disease can lie dormant without someone showing any symptoms. They would add a week just to be safe.
The minister said that during their 21 days at the hotel the facilities would be secured and patrolled by both the army and the police, not because the people were infected or being treated as criminals, but merely to ensure that the quarantine is observed conscientiously.
Mkhize added that the people who had been quarantined in China in single rooms would be catered for in a similar manner, and families would also be allowed to stay together.
All the staff and the hotel management and owners would be compensated for the three-week period. Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said they had made it clear to staff that it was not compulsory for anyone to work there.
Mkhize said “law of the military” would be in place from now on. Anyone who showed any evidence of the presence of coronavirus would be removed from The Ranch and taken for treatment.
“There are no patients we are bringing here.”
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)