Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the army has identified the Ranch Hotel and Resort in Polokwane to be a suitable area to quarantine the 122 South Africans, who will land on Friday after being repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, because of its remoteness and proximity to the airport.

South Africa’s has 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus. No deaths have been reported from the virus.

Mkhize told the media in Polokwane on Thursday 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.

Mkhize says everybody else including the ministers and the Limpopo leadership did not know about the identified area until the last minute.

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

“The General was given the specifications amongst which was the number of people that need to come back to South Africa. They need to come back to a site that is away from human habitation, there must not be communities nearby so that there are no mistakes of people wandering into the quarantined 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.”

In the video below, Minister Zweli Mkhize addresses the media about the quarantine plans:

Government warning

Government has sent a strong warning to members of the public not to try to access the coronavirus quarantine centre at the Ranch Hotel.

Mkhize told the media 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.”

Free State coronavirus case retracted

Earlier, Mkhize retracted a comment that the country had seen the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus in the Free State saying the laboratory that had tested the patient had made an error.

Sub-Saharan Africa has reported far fewer cases of coronavirus than in Europe or China. However,  some analysts are worried that it could spread rapidly in poor or overcrowded areas if local transmission takes hold.

Mkhize says a statement that a patient had contracted the virus after contact with a Chinese businessman was incorrect.

He says such reference should not have been made as the person had been confirmed negative after subsequent testing.

“So, we want to indicate publicly that we withdraw that and we regret that such reference was made. We do not have a record of anyone, whether a businessman or not who has got any connections with China, here that has got an infection or that has got a possibility of infecting somebody further. For that we want to apologise and retract that. So, the public should really bear with us.”

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

Government meets ZCC

ZCC members are expected to converge on the church’s headquarters in Moria for the annual Easter Conference.

The government says it is not necessary to place any restrictions on religious gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus in the country.

Mkhize and members of the inter-ministerial committee on the coronavirus says they will engage religious groups on the matter.

“We were meeting up with the ZCC. We are going to continue to meet other churches on Thursday. Next, we are meeting South African Council of Churches with all the churches that they can find. We are going to discuss the issue. Now, the challenge here is that if you want to prevent infection, the simplest thing is to listen, cancel Good Friday, cancel, this cancel that. One, it’s not as easy as that. You also can’t make restrictions unilaterally. We don’t run the churches. We have to support the churches. We have to enlighten people and so on.”

Below are some useful facts about coronavirus: