JOHANNESBURG – South Africa is set to evacuate 151 citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan as a new virus continues to spread across the globe, authorities said Sunday.
The South Africans will be evacuated in a military operation that will see them quarantined for 21 days after they arrive in the country, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
All of the South Africans returning are healthy and have tested negative for the virus, but as a safety precaution they will be under quarantine upon their arrival in South Africa, Mkhize said. The airlift would take place in about 10 days, he said.
South Africa is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to evacuate its citizens from China and affected areas.
The decision to evacuate the citizens follows pleas from families of South Africans still held up in Wuhan, the city identified as the main source of the outbreak.
South Africa's health care facilities are ready to receive the evacuated South Africans, though these sites wouldn't be made known, Mkhize said. He said the country has prepared to deal with the new virus and has designated selected public hospitals to deal with any possible infections.
South Africa hasn't recorded any confirmed COVID-19 cases within its borders. Three countries in Africa — Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria — have reported cases of the disease. Other African countries are on alert, with some health experts saying several national health systems on the continent are weak in disease surveillance and control.
South Africa confirmed last week that two citizens who had been working on the Princess Diamond cruise ship have the virus and will continue to receive treatment in Japan.
Follow AP’s coverage of the new coronavirus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak