- The R25 million operation to repatriate 184 South Africans from Wuhan, China has hit a snag
- This comes after SANDF crew members are reportedly refusing to take on the risky task
- A senior official claims that personnel remain unwilling to man the aircraft set to bring the citizens home
The plan to bring 184 South African citizens home from Wuhan, China amid a global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus has ground to a halt.
The Mail & Guardian reports that a senior official with intimate knowledge of the operation confirmed that South African National Defence Force members were refusing to continue with the mission, fearing that there is a huge risk of being infected with the virus themselves.
An aircraft has been secured for the potentially dangerous journey, but crew members are reportedly refusing to take part. The source commented:
"We do have an aircraft ready to go. But there are no warm bodies who want to go to China, as they fear the risk."
News24 reports that teachers and other professionals are set to return from the Wuhan district, believed to be the epicentre of the coronavirus.
On Thursday, the government had issued a statement on the progress of the R25 million plan:
"The aircraft with the capacity to bring back the citizens in Wuhan has been secured. An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments including Health, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Defence Force will form part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa. They will be working with the Chinese authorities to screen the group of South Africans before they depart the epicentre of Wuhan.
"With the support of the South African Embassy in China, a ground transport plan is being put in place to ensure that all citizens who are to be evacuated are safely brought to a central collection point from where they will be transported home."
However, negotiations are still underway in order to provide a quarantine area for the evacuated citizens:
"Negotiations with a number of service providers to serve as a quarantine area have not yet been concluded. At this stage, the technical team is working hard to finalise this critical area of work and there is no specific venue that has been confirmed. We can, however, reassure that this work will be concluded in the not-so-distant future."
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize clarified that the citizens had tested negative for the virus and would be quarantined for a 21-day period upon their arrival in SA.
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