South Africa to airlift 151 from China within days

The Inter-ministerial Committee for the evacuation and quarantine of South Africans under locked down in China's Wuhan has confirmed the urgent return of 151 people.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa will evacuate 151 citizens from the coronavirus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan within days, the health minister said on Sunday.

This as the death toll and number of infected worldwide mounted.

The virus has spread to more than 60 countries around the globe -- killing nearly 3,000 people and sickening 87,000 -- prompting the World Health Organization to raise its risk assessment to its highest level.

READ: Mkhize on coronavirus: We have to get ready

The decision to airlift the trapped South Africans came after President Cyril Ramaphosa directed the repatriation of those who have asked to return home.

"We were asked by the president to start the process immediately  -- (so) within seven to 10 days (the evacuation team) must have completed the task," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

The minister told a news conference that there were 201 South Africans in Wuhan -- the epicentre of the virus -- and that "151 have indicated they want to be repatriated".

READ: Govt plans to repatriate South Africans in Wuhan: report

The group will be kept in quarantine for 21 days at a site authorities have refused to disclose.

"The people we are bringing in are South Africans who are healthy and as far as we are concerned, are not infected," Mkhize said. 

The repatriation process will be executed by the military.


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