Covid-19: Capetonians repatriated from Saudi Arabia locked down in Joburg

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Cape Town – A group of Capetonians, part of a larger group of South Africans, were repatriated from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) this week.

The Capetonians remain in quarantine in Johannesburg, unsure of when they will return to Cape Town, but say they are grateful for the speedy efforts made by both governments in facilitating the repatriation process.

Approximately 93 South Africans left King Abdulaziz International Airport near Jeddah and arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday.

Courtney Edwards, 26, from Mitchells Plain, said he travelled to Saudi Arabia on July 29, 2019 to teach at the Nada International School in Al-Ahsa Governorate.

“We are in a government quarantine facility in Johannesburg; when we arrived, they sprayed us and all our luggage with sanitiser. Each person was allocated a separate room, equipped with TV and wi-fi, and each gets three meals per day and has room service and emergency service,” Edwards said.

“Our temperatures are taken every day and we are waiting for our tests to be done.

“We received an email from our embassy in Riyadh regarding possible repatriation flights on April 21 and 23rd. We proceeded to submit our names to the embassy. I’m not sure if I’m dealing with the experience well. I had fear during the entire 14 hours to Jeddah airport; every blue light was a possible arrest there were three females with me that I had to protect. The journey was exhausting, challenging every part of you.

“Now I can’t leave my room and that is very difficult. I woke up crying yesterday (Thursday) morning.”

Alvira Labans, 47, of Belhar, taught English at a college in Medina, and had been working in KSA since late 2011.

“We know how to operate in that environment but the lockdown (in KSA) changed my ability to adjust to what was happening around us.

“The lockdown in Medina was quite strict. Police were visible, and you don’t want to get yourself in a compromising space because of the language barrier.

“At the last minute, we were told our flight was on the 21st, and we hired a big tour bus at R15 000 for seven people, the day before.”

Labans and six other South Africans taught at the college in KSA.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said 93 people were on the flight from KSA on Tuesday.

“On-board screenings were done by Port Health before disembarkation. There were no signs of high fever in any of the passengers or crew members so immigration cleared them.”


Cape Argus

By Shakirah Thebus


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