The German government on Friday started the repatriation of its citizens from South Africa.
Strict travel regulations had been in place since a 21-day nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was announced.
Previously, all flights were grounded, but the repatriation was permitted due to the revised regulations announced this week by the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula.
The German Embassy said on Thursday that about 5 000 German tourists were stuck in the country and they would be repatriated from Johannesburg and Cape Town by the South African Airways.
After several attempts to leave South Africa to return home to Berlin, German tourists Wolfgang Luckau and Inge Klaus, along with several other stranded German citizens, were instructed to gather at the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point on Friday. They were then bused to the Cape Town International airport, to fly back home.
Sitting on a curb in the parking lot in front of the stadium, Luckau, his partner Klaus and hundreds of other tourists filled out flight documents. They appeared tired and frustrated. This was their second attempt to fly back home since the national lockdown was implemented.
They were denied access to a designated flight on 26 March and had made several attempts to leave even sooner than that.
“We grabbed a taxi and chased back to Betty’s Bay. Fortunately, our accommodation was still available because the owners were very understanding, so at least we had a roof over our heads,” Luckau said.
Several tourists stood in the parking lot and the large grass area outside the stadium filling out forms, while those who had already completed the necessary paperwork formed a line at the stadium entrance, waiting to board one of several buses.
Luckau said there was a perception in South Africa that tourists were responsible for the spread of the coronavirus.
“Many South Africans kind of discriminate against European tourists at the moment because they believe that we brought the virus into the country, but that is absolutely not true,” he said.
South Africa recorded its first case of the virus on 5 March when a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife tested positive for Covid-19. They were part of a group of 10 people who went on a skiing trip to Italy.
“We, as tourists, we don’t bring the virus, we bring the money,” Luckau added.
He also expressed his gratitude to several local residents whose assistance made their departure possible.
Their flight departed at roughly 22:00 on Friday evening.