The government has been consulting with stakeholders in the hospitality industry with a view to house about 151 South Africans who are expected to be repatriated from Wuhan, which is considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday the process to source accommodation, which started about three weeks ago, was almost complete and the identified facilities include hotels, game reserves and resorts in remote areas.
“We wish to reiterate that none of the affected individuals has been diagnosed with the virus nor have they exhibited any symptoms thereof. As an added precautionary measure, it was decided that upon arrival in South Africa, these citizens will be placed in quarantine,” he stated in a statement.
Mkhize assured the public once a quarantine facility had been chosen, it would have strict military security measures. He added such measures would ensure people living close to the quarantine facility would have no contact with those living in the camp and they would not be exposed to the virus.
“The viewing of various facilities are underway. Once a decision is made to select specific facilities, further consultation with stakeholders, including leaders of society and communities at large, will be undertaken,” Mkhize said.
Media houses have been urged to report on the outbreak with caution as any information not yet confirmed by the government could cause panic, trauma, fear and anxiety especially for the families of those directly impacted by this outbreak. This could potentially be disruptive to the government’s operations, planning processes and implementation strategies on dealing with the outbreak, he added.
“We have now requested all the facilities we have engaged with in the past three weeks to desist from engaging with the media as this may prejudice the government’s planning and compromise security measures meant for the local communities and even the citizens who will occupy the accommodation,” Mkhize added.
He said the government remained committed to being transparent throughout this outbreak by keeping the media and public fully informed.
“We will not renege on this commitment. But we also need the media to respect that people’s lives are involved. They also have a right to privacy.”
Mkhize added the government was dedicated to decreasing the spread of the virus and called on members of the public to work together with it to fight the outbreak. It was confirmed on Saturday afternoon that the novel coronavirus has infected two people in South Africa.
The first positive case has been traced to a patient living in KwaZulu-Natal, while the second case is in Gauteng. Both people were part of the same travel group of 10 people who returned from Italy earlier this month. So far, more than 300 people have been tested for the coronavirus.