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Coronavirus: South Africans Quarantine Zone Under Military Guard

SOUTH AFRICA: More than 86,000 people have been infected globally as the outbreak spreads with hotspots reported in the Middle East and Europe.

South African authorities are in preparation for the arrival of South Africans that have been living in the epicentre of the COVID19 virus, in Wuhan, China. The incoming South African citizens will be isolated, guarded by military personnel during the 21-day quarantine period, in the Free State province as reported by the Sunday Times.

The quarantine zone has been declared a no-fly zone with strict measures in place to ensure safety of both the public and those being quarantined. At current there are no final numbers for the South Africans who plan to take up the offer of precautionary evacuation. The repatriation operation is expected to take place within the next seven to 10 days.

No contact with family members

Families and other visitors will not be allowed to visit during the 21-day quarantine period, said health minister Zweli Mkhize.

“The requirements are that there will be a perimeter line monitored by the military. It will be a no-entry zone. Those who are under quarantine will not be allowed to leave the area.”

Within the perimeter, the area will be declared a no-entry zone and a no-flight zone. Those under quarantine will not be allowed to leave but will be allowed to move freely within the perimeter, though authorities will discourage group meetings. No family members, friends or associates of those under quarantine may visit the zone. There will be a “no-man’s land” strip to accommodate the collection of goods. Zero contact will be allowed between the deliverers and the collectors.

“Legal action will be taken against any individual that goes against the stipulated regulations in relation to quarantine,” Mkhize warned.

“The very nature of the quarantine exercise is to isolate a group of COVID negative people who have been exposed to a high risk environment, remove them from that high risk environment, and then allow the determined incubation period to lapse before being integrated into society. Human contact and mixing of groups will be limited in the entire process,” Mkhize told a briefing in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Sixteen SA citizens wish to remain in Wuhan

Said Mkhize: “We have been able to ascertain that there are approximately 199 South Africans living in Wuhan.”

Between 147 and 151 may be repatriated.

Said Mkhize: “Amongst these are students who have completed studies and students whose studies were interrupted by the lockdown.”

He added 16 citizens had indicated they did not wish to return to SA. There was also a SA citizen who elected to be repatriated with Indian citizens who were recently evacuated by the government of India. Mkhize, addressing a briefing by the interministerial committee assigned to deal with the repatriation and quarantine of citizens from Wuhan, explained that the SA citizens would be quarantined when they arrive back in the country. He said 84 sites had been identified as quarantine zones.

When the quarantine period is over and the citizens have tested negative to the coronavirus, they will receive final counselling and be granted leave to evacuate the area.

He stressed that the South Africans coming back from China had tested negative. “The people we are bringing back have tested negative. We are taking precautionary measures. They are not infected.” If any did test positive, the citizens would be sent to a designated hospital, Mkhize said.

While no cases have yet emerged in South Africa, suspected cases have been discovered in Zambia, marking the first potential threats on the African continent.

World Health Organisation reports that patients diagnosed positive with 2019-nCoV infection are presenting with a wide range of symptoms.

“Most seem to have mild disease, and about 20% appear to progress to severe disease, including pneumonia, respiratory failure and in some cases death,”

“Clinical care of suspected patients with 2019-nCoV should focus on early recognition, immediate isolation (separation), implementation of appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures and provision of optimised supportive care.”

World Health Organisation

The COVID-19 virus (coronavirus), was first reported in Wuhan, China, in November 2019.

To read more visit Al-Jazeera for the Coronavirus live updates here

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