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Chinese nationals turned away at OR Tambo Airport

By Staff Writer

THE ravaging coronavirus pandemic has seen SADC nations at last taking stringent measures to curtail the spread of the virus, with reports that Chinese nationals were turned away at Africa’s biggest airport, the OR Tambo International Airport in South Africa yesterday.

The developments come as CEO of Airports Company South Africa, Mpumi Mpofu, said ACSA, state agencies and the Home Affairs and Health departments were co-ordinating activities to manage the passage of passengers from high-risk countries.

It was not immediately clear what their intended destination was, but reports say they had come from Mozambique and had to go back onto the flight. From Mozambique, the reports say, the group of Chinese national were planning to re-enter South Africa by road.

“This is the situation at the Komatipoort Boarder Post. It’s suspected the Chinese turned away at OR Tambo, landed in Mozambique & will enter SA by the road,” said Fidelis Zvomuya Zengeya, a writer and communication strategist from Zimbabwe who witnessed the fued between the Chinese and South African immigration officials.

A group of Chinese nationals had trouble getting past immigration authorities at OR Tambo International Airport in SA. PHOTO: Fidelis Zvomuya

A report by Pindula News says the Cjinses nationals were yesterday reportedly seen at Komatipoort Border Post which is between South Africa and Mozambique intending to enter into South Africa by road.

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South Africa is intensifying efforts to combat the novel coronavirus which emerged in China in December last year, and has been identified in at least 240 South Africans by Saturday 21 March.

Zimbabwe Voice reported yesterday that embassies in Pretoria of countries on South Africa’s 10-country travel ban list are scrambling to get their nationals — and some staff members — home after South African Airways (SAA) cancelled all international flights and foreign airlines announced plans to cancel or cut back.

There was confusion and disappointment at airports on Friday as the travel ban kicked in, with only South African citizens and those with permanent residence being allowed to disembark. Hundreds of nationals from high-risk countries, including Iran, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, China and the US were turned back without leaving their planes.

Twenty flights — from SAA, British Airways, Air China, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa, Air France and Kulula — were affected.

OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport in Durban are the only airports where passengers from high-risk countries will be processed under the regulations issued. South Africans returning from high-risk countries will, however, still be allowed to return, “because constitutionally we have no right to stop South Africans from coming home”, South Africa’s Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said.

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CEO of Airports Company South Africa, Mpumi Mpofu said: “Port health and the Department of Home Affairs go on the flight and screen those people on the flight and determine if they are South African citizens,” she said. “Once there is a determination that they are South African citizens, we have allowed for buses to be taken to the airport site where South Africans will be screened.”

Mbalula mentioned the example of an Air China flight which landed on Friday morning and from which 80 South African citizens disembarked, while the 68 Chinese citizens on board were forced to return to China.

“Passengers are asked to contact their airlines for further details,” Mbalula said.

He said a number of flights had already been cancelled and more would be cancelled in the coming days. – Zimbabwe Voice

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