An official in protective gear stands near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. Picture: KYODO NEWS/GETTY IMAGES
An official in protective gear stands near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. Picture: KYODO NEWS/GETTY IMAGES

The two SA crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who initially tested positive for the novel coronavirus Covid-19, have now tested negative and will shortly be returning to SA, according to a government statement.

The two were among 12 SA crew members on the cruise ship, which was quarantined outside the Japanese port of Yokohama after an outbreak among its passengers.

The highly contagious coronavirus emerged in China in late December and has rapidly spread beyond its borders, sickening more than 94,000 people and killing more than 3,200 by March 4.

The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) established by the government to co-ordinate the repatriation of SA citizens living in Wuhan, the epicentre of China’s epidemic, was still finalising aspects of the process, it said in a statement.

“A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated back home. Most of these South Africans are students, teachers and other professionals currently working in Wuhan. At this stage only seven South Africans in Wuhan have opted to remain in Wuhan City,” it said.

An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments, including health, home affairs, social development and the defence force, will work with the Chinese authorities to screen the South Africans before they leave Wuhan, and are finalising a ground transport plan.

The aircraft required to fly the South Africans home had been secured, but a quarantine site in SA had not yet been finalised, and negotiations with service providers are still under way, it said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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