South Africans from Wuhan quarantine group safe to go home

The 112 South Africans who were being quarantined at The Ranch Resort in Limpopo will today leave to unite with their families. The Presidency announced that they are clear to go home after all tested negative for Covid-19.

In a statement, it said: “The president will see off the 112 South African citizens who will be reunited with their families after testing negative for coronavirus at the end of their quarantine at the Ranch Resort in Polokwane.”

The group had spent 14 days in quarantine — the rough amount of time that it takes for Covid-19 to be strong enough to be picked up by tests, and then burn itself out. 

“We now declare The Ranch a green zone, it’s where we put our students, the cabin crew of the flight that fetched them and our military medical officers,” said Ramaphosa.

The Ranch Resort
Not quite home: The Ranch Resort, which is situated on a 1000 hectare conservancy about 25km from Polokwane, has 150 bedrooms and a variety of activities for those being quarantined there

The Mail & Guardian first reported on the request by South Africans in Wuhan, China — the original epicentre of Covid-19 — last month. At that time, the government had still not decided whether or not to evacuate the nearly 200 people who wanted to leave. At that point, it said repatriation was not an option as they were advised against it by the World Health Organisation. 

The M&G then reported that the government was looking at the option of using a resort in Thaba Nchu, a small town in the Free State Province, as a place of quarantine.  

But a Cabinet document that the M&G has seen said the government was obliged to evacuate citizens who are in danger. This, the document noted, could cost as much as R80-million

Later, GCIS acting director general Phumla Williams admitted that they let go of the Free State resort because they couldn’t reach an agreement with the owner of the resort. It was alleged that he asked for a large sum of money and feared the risk this would pose to his staff and future business.

The government then said that it had reached an agreement with a resort near Polokwane in Limpopo — The Ranch — to house the returnees while they were under quarantine. A chartered SAA plane was then sent to Wuhan to bring the 112 back.

Following his meeting with the evacuees, the President will go to Pretoria and chair a meeting with the National Command Council that coordinates the government’s response to Covid-19.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is an Open Society Fellow in Investigative Reporting at Wits University. Currently spending six months with the Mail and Guardian in the Investigations desk. He started journalism with Independent Media’s vernacular publication, I’solezwe LesiXhosa in East London. He has freelanced for publications such as GroundUp and Workers World Media.

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