SAA flight lands in Polokwane with 146 South Africans onboard who were evacuated from the global coronvirus epicentre. Picture: GRAEME HOSKINS
SAA flight lands in Polokwane with 146 South Africans onboard who were evacuated from the global coronvirus epicentre. Picture: GRAEME HOSKINS

The South Africans evacuated from Wuhan — the coronavirus global epicentre — have arrived back in the country after a 14-hour flight.

SAA flight ZS-SND touched down at Polokwane International Airport on Saturday morning.

The Airbus A340-600, which was part of a military led evacuation of the South Africans from the Chinese city, was immediately approached by biohazard specialists in white hazmat suits who could be seen carefully inspecting the aircraft. Ground crew and cargo handling staff were also kitted out in special masks and equipment.

It was originally said that 121 South Africans were evacuated but officials confirmed that 146 are on-board.

The South Africans will be taken to The Ranch Resort 25km outside Polokwane where they will be quarantined for 21 days.

Buses that will transport the South Africans to the quarantine site were lined up near the SAA aircraft, while soldiers stood guard about them.

The passengers disembarked after undergoing medical examinations aboard the aircraft. Several waved towards the arrivals section and viewing desk where scores of journalists were gathered.

Most were carrying a few belongings after Chinese authorities enforced strict cargo hold conditions before they left Wuhan airport.

While queuing on the tarmac as they waited to board the buses, health officials examined several of them and their bags before they boarded the buses.

The government has meanwhile called a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

The meeting was expected to be held on Sunday in Tshwane, the GCIS said in a statement.

“Cabinet reassures all in SA that the country remains on high alert. Every precaution is being taken to safeguard the country against any surge of the Covid-19,” minister in the presidency, Jackson Mthembu was quoted as saying.