CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG – The Health Department on Friday said it would help authorities in China get in touch with a Johannesburg man and his colleague who said they were left stranded in Wuhan since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Eyewitness News spoke to Pieter Viljoen who said they were desperate to return home. Viljoen said transport services were suspended in Wuhan.
There is no confirmed infection on home soil, however, government said two South Africans were placed in quarantine in China as a precautionary measure.
More than 200 people have died from the coronavirus while more than 9,000 others have contracted the virus, which has now been declared a global emergency.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday said the government would assist South Africans in Wuhan, but no citizens would be evacuated yet.
“I think we must anticipate that anyone there is very nervous. We need to see what we can do to assist them immediately and we need to understand that China is a sovereign country that has its responsibilities.”
‘I CAN’T EXIT MY BUILDING’
Amy Pittaway, an English teacher from Cape Town who is in Wuhan, said the city was still on lockdown.
“We’re still in lockdown. From yesterday and for the next three days it’s locked down even more. They believe it’s the peak of the virus. I can’t exit my building at all. They now have house checks. No delivery men can get in or out.”
Pittaway said her company ensured that she had enough supplies amid the outbreak.
“I luckily have food. I have a very good company that brought us masks, surgical supplies and some food. I am stocked up and have two-minute noodles. We’ll see how long it lasts.”
The teacher said they had not received any information from the South African government until they spoke to the media.
“To be honest, I am not 100% sure what’s going on. We don’t have information coming to us in our own language or from our own government. I know what I read and that information is not always up to date.”
When asked about communication from the embassy, Pittaway said they had not received much help.
“We have been in touch with the embassy. They have communicated that they have no plans to evacuate us and they’ll assist us. We haven’t seen any results from that. There’s a hotline that they gave us after we put pressure on government when we went on air.”
Pittaway currently lives with three other South Africans.
“They’re going through the same thing as me. They can’t speak to their neighbours and they feel alone.”