After a week of discussions about fetching 122 South Africans from coronavirus epicentre Wuhan and bringing them home, the day is finally upon us.
According to SABC News, the South African repatriates are due to land at the Polokwane International airport in Limpopo around 10:30 on Saturday morning.
The repatriates and South African National Defence Force (SANDF) officials, including medical staff, will then be taken to the controversial Ranch Resort Hotel near Polokwane and be quarantined for 21 days before re-integrating into their communities.
The Army and South African Police Service (SAPS) are said to be at the airport in full force to escort repratriates to the quarantine site.
Public warned to steer clear of coronavirus quarantine site
Government sent a strong message to members of the public, warning them not to try and access the coronavirus quarantine site at the Ranch Hotel and Resort.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said the precinct and road leading to the hotel would be a no-go area. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize also told the media on Thursday 12 March that the area will be under military guard with police assistance for the duration of the quarantine period.
It was also explained that there would be two perimeter sites around the quarantine for extra security.
“There must not be communities nearby so there are no mistakes of people wandering into a quarantine area. Thirdly it must be an area which is so isolated if it is possible to create two lines of a parameter security patrol, there will be patrols by the army, there will be patrols by the police,” he said.
Limpopo residents not impressed with chosen location
Residents of Limpopo were extremely angry following reports that South Africans from Wuhan would be quarantined in their province at the Ranch Resort Hotel.
Residents could not understand why a large number of citizens, possibly carrying the coronavirus, had to be “dumped” into their hands. It was suggested, amid the uproar, that each province have its own quarantine site.
Thus, the #LimpopoIsNotADumpingSite hashtag began trending on Thursday evening.
The provincial African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) promised to “disturb th[e] arrangement and organise the mother of all marches” if The Ranch and government “continue[d] to be arrogant”.
The league said choosing Limpopo as a quarantine facility would send shock waves in communities, and is likely to give bad publicity to the vulnerable tourism economy of the province:
“While acknowledging the work done by the government of educating the people of South Africa about coronavirus, we are worried about the socio-economic conditions that the majority of our people find themselves in. For example, if one of the employees at The Ranch were to contract the virus, they would transmit it to the multitudes of people that they interact with, in public transport, their homes and other places where black people socialise,” read the statement.