President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited the Nasrec Expo in Gauteng which has been demarcated as a quarantine site. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited the Nasrec Expo in Gauteng which has been demarcated as a quarantine site. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The public works and infrastructure department says there are enough quarantine facilities in the country as the government moves to repatriate more South Africans stranded abroad this week.

There have been contradicting reports that SA, which has 7,220 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 138 deaths as of Tuesday evening, has allegedly procured fewer quarantine sites than expected, leaving those repatriated in limbo and with little information as to where they should be taken for their 14 days of quarantine.

On Monday, the department’s director-general Sam Vukela told MPs that the department will have to fork out close to R28.6m to private properties, such as hotels, to use them as quarantine sites. The department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) has said it will repatriate more South Africans stranded abroad this week, from the US, Thailand and Bangkok, among other countries.

Public works and infrastructure spokesperson Zara Nicholson told Business Day on Tuesday that a total of 1,418 sites representing more than 109,000 beds had been identified across the country. 

Of these, 636 are state-owned facilities with 782 privately owned. “To date, 328 facilities have been assessed and are compliant according to department of health standards, representing 24,884 beds,” said Nicholson.

“Of these, 114 facilities have been activated, representing 11,685 beds available for quarantine requirements.” She said 5,443 infected individuals are currently quarantined and 6,242 beds are available.

“The health department has strict criteria … some [of the quarantine sites] might not be compliant but that’s pending the assessment by the department of health. Others are still being assessed by the department, so the number of compliant sites changes as they are confirmed.”

Stranded South Africans

Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said that since the coronavirus lockdown was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March, the department has facilitated the repatriation of more than 3,000 South Africans stranded abroad.

He said about 275 South Africans stranded in the US arrived back home on Sunday afternoon, and that another group, also from the US, will arrive on Tuesday.

“Given the challenges we have been experiencing regarding the repatriation of our nationals, mainly from Asia and the Middle East, the department is pleased to announce that on Friday,  May 8 2020, about 600 South Africans from Bangkok, Thailand, Bali and Jakarta will be repatriated,” said Ngqengelele.

He said the department is exploring options to facilitate the return of a further 400 stranded throughout Africa, while the majority of citizens that were stranded in Europe and the UK have already been repatriated.

The department continues to monitor the situation of 50 students and 29 artists in Turkey, and is looking at ways of repatriating those who want to return home.

Ngqengelele said the Turkish government has “given us assurances that all students will remain in their university residences, as well as receive their daily meals. We continue to explore solutions for the 29 artists, and [we] are pleased that the Turkish government has assisted with food and other necessities they needed”.

“The department wishes to assure all those who are still stranded abroad that it is doing everything it can to find ways to bring them home.”

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za