Government has sent a strong warning to members of the public not to try to access the coronavirus quarantine centre at the Ranch Hotel and Resort outside Polokwane in Limpopo.

The Ranch Resort has been identified as the quarantine zone for a group of 122 South Africans who will be repatriated from the Chinese town Wuhan on Friday.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has also told the media on Thursday that the area will be under the military and police guard for the duration of the quarantine period.

“A decision has now been made that this site is the one that is being used, there is an agreement signed with the owners of this particular place. There is also been work that has been done with the staff, and all that has been properly done, negotiated and put behind us.”

Minister Zweli Mkhize addresses the media:

About the Ranch

Mkhize tells the media that the repatriation was the project of the military under President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces. He says everybody else including the ministers and the Limpopo leadership did not know about the identified area until at the last minute.

He says the aircraft will land at the Ranch from China as there is an airstrip that is big enough to accommodate the military plane.

“So the generals were given the specification, amongst which, was number on the people that need to come back to South Africa … they need to come back to a site which is away from human habitation. There must not be communities nearby so there are no mistakes of people wandering into a quarantine area. Thirdly it must be an area which is so isolated if it is possible to create two lines of a parameter security patrol, there will be patrols by the army, there will be patrols by the police.”

Workers at the Ranch

Workers at the Ranch will be getting a risk allowance. That is according to a member of the inter-ministerial team Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She has assured the public that the workers will also be provided with the necessary protective wear during the three-week quarantine.

“But generally it wasn’t like they were unhappy, they just wanted clarification on a few issues. They were promised that they would be examined by a doctor to make sure that they are well. But yes tomorrow (Friday) that will be done. Of course, they were also happy that there was some extra money they were going to get over and above their salary for this month.”

Minister Zweli Mkhize says there three phases to the process of the repatriation of South Africans from Wuhan:

COVID-19 cases in SA

Earlier, the Minister retracted reports of a coronavirus case in the Free State, reducing the number of people infected in the country from 17 to 16.

Limpopo students

Mkhize also announced that the 14 Limpopo students who returned from China recently had all tested negative for the virus.

“We knew that they were not at risk, however with mounting speculation, we felt that it was important for us just to take a necessary precaution, just to make sure that this matter is put to rest once and for all. Between our department and the provincial government of Limpopo, we discussed the matter and all agreed that these students must actually be called so that we do the test and allay the fears of the public on this matter.”

The infographic below gives more information about COVID-19: