President says SA team going to Wuhan are "heroes"

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday hailed the South African team travelling to Wuhan, China, on a repatriation mission, as heroes who carry the pride and hope of the nation.

The team comprising members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and a medical team from the Department of Health left for Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak, from OR Tambo International Airport, last night.

“This is an important mission for the country. We are so proud of your commitment. We thank you for doing it for the country. I want you to go out there knowing that you are carrying the whole country,” President Ramaphosa said.

He told the excited team that they are not going alone, but they are traveling with God.

President Ramaphosa used the opportunity to allay the fears of South Africans, saying that the people that the team is going to repatriate, are not sick.

“This team is going to fetch people who are well. We will keep screening them to check if we cannot find someone who got an infection, if there are, we will take them out for treatment,” President Ramaphosa said.

Prior to bidding farewell to the team, President Ramaphosa, accompanied by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize and Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, conducted a walkabout at the OR Tambo International Airport.

The walkabout showed the President the state of readiness at the airport in case of any arrivals from Coronavirus countries. The President was also shown a clinic at the airport were patients are treated.

Government initially received more than 180 requests from South Africans in Wuhan to be repatriated to South Africa, but more than 60 of them subsequently changed their minds and decided to remain in China.

Government will now repatriate 122 South Africans from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Minister Mkhize also emphasized that none of the South Africans in China have Coronavirus but said they will still be quarantined and tested as part of health requirements when they arrive back home from Wuhan.

Mkhize thanked the team for their willingness to assist in the repatriation.

“I would like to thank you for assisting in the repatriation. You are doing this for the country,” he said.

A member of the team, a medical doctor from the Department of Health, Dr Ahmed Bham, told SAnews that he is proud to be taking part on this important mission.

“I’m very honored to be given the opportunity to serve the people of my country,” he said.

Asked if he is not afraid of contracting the virus, he confidently said that will not happen as they are well prepared and taking all the precautionary measures into account.

“My duty is to save lives and that’s exactly what I am going to do,” he said, adding that he is proud to serve the country and that he is prepared to do anything to save lives.

Dr Bham said saving lives is what he does and that to him is his calling.

Coronavirus in SA

The number of Coronavirus cases in South Africa has risen to 13, after six more new cases were confirmed on Wednesday.

As a precaution, the Department of Health has embarked on a rigorous campaign of tracing every person the 13 individuals have been in contact with since returning to South Africa.

Some of the identified patients had shown symptoms, while others had not. However, they have all been placed on self-quarantine at home or have been admitted to hospital. –