Coronavirus News Africa

I have no money for a ticket home or to stay here much longer, says SA man stuck in Vietnam

Stranded in Vietnam, more than 10 000km from home, SA citizen Craig Jordan doesn’t know where next month’s rent will come from.

“I am now in a situation where I do not have money to buy a ticket home or money to stay in Vietnam any longer than this month,” Jordan, 55, told News24 on Wednesday.

He has been in the Southeast Asian country for six months.

Schools closed in January for the Vietnamese holidays and have remained shut due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

“At the moment, I have one 30-minute online class, once a week. Most people are not working, so don’t have money for online learning.” 

If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid, he explained.

“I therefore decided to try and fly back at the beginning of March as my funds were almost exhausted. To my shock, the air ticket prices [were] over R100 000,” he said.

“I have managed to pay rent this month and have enough money to last until the end of April. I am now in a situation where I do not have money to buy a ticket home or money to stay in Vietnam any longer than this month.

“I heard of one expat teacher who is already living on the street because he ran out of money. It’s very scary.”

1 471 South Africans stranded abroad

Jordan obtained a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate after his maintenance business hit hard times. He previously worked at a public school in India on a voluntary contract to gain experience.

Vietnam currently has 218 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with no fatalities.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor this week said government would allow citizens stranded abroad to return to South Africa.

READ MORE: Govt working hard to bring home almost 1 500 stranded South Africans – Pandor

At a press briefing on Tuesday, she confirmed 1 471 South Africans, mainly students, were stuck abroad, and her office would facilitate the move.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said his department would allow repatriation, which would not be similar to the scale of the recent Wuhan evacuation.

According to Mbalula, the evacuation would be allowed provided the person has a fully-paid return flight ticket.

On arrival, the person would be subjected to mandatory quarantine for a period of up to 21 days.

“Stranded but well” on a rig in India, Matthew Elson from Kleinmond in the Western Cape has been in South Asia for just over a month.

“Never in my life when I went to work in India on 18 February would I have believed I would become stranded here,” he told News24.

“The day I left there were no cases of coronavirus in SA and it was still confined to China.”

Elson works for an Indian company offshore on a rig. He was scheduled to be home on 19 March.

“I cannot get off the rig as all helicopters are cancelled and cannot get out of India as all flights are cancelled,” he explained.

‘People are punished if caught out of their houses’

India is also currently in lockdown. The country has recorded more than 1 300 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 35 people have died.

“It is much like SA with regard to the lockdown – all shops are closed except food and pharmacies, no alcohol, no exercise. People are punished if caught out of their houses.

“They are very strict but, like SA, they have a lot of people living hand to mouth, day to day, who are really struggling. It is very sad.”

Because he works for the Indian government and there are no helicopters to the rigs unless for emergencies, Elson said he would only be able to get off the rig when India’s lockdown comes to an end on 13 April, although it may be extended.

Nevertheless, Elson said his spirits were high, although he had a scare last week when his ill wife in SA was tested for Covid-19.

She tested negative but was diagnosed with pneumonia.

“She is getting better, but [what] makes me somewhat stressed is that she is ill and I am here,” he lamented.

He fears getting sick in a foreign country where “everything is unfamiliar”.

“In India, you will not be able to produce your Discovery card and go to a private hospital for this virus. You will be placed among the general population. They are [considering] converting train cabins into ICU rooms.”

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