Thirteen South Africans say they have been left stranded in Morocco amid the global outbreak of Covid-19 after the country announced last week that it was suspending all international flights to and from Morocco.
James de Wet told News24 on Sunday that he had been pleading with the embassy since 15 March to bring them back home after Morocco announced it was shutting down its airports.
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“Morning Rehaan, I’m sure you’re aware that a group of us are desperately trying to get home. Ivan and Jacky are doing a great job leading the efforts,” De Wet wrote to the chargé d’affairs at the embassy Rehaan Ebrahim.
“Any assistance from you would obviously be greatly appreciated,” he added.
Ebraham responded: “Dear Mr De Wet. There has been no change in the Morocco government’s ban on international flights. We are assisting in accordance with our government policies. Private efforts will be supported through official government channels.”
News24 has seen correspondence of De Wet pleading on behalf of South Africans in Morocco, suggesting that citizens be repatriated from France.
“Hi Rehaan, now more than ever, we need the assistance of our government. We all need and want to get home. The Minister of Transport is talking about collecting the citizens in France, we can be included in that operation,” he suggested.
‘Nowhere to stay’
Six South Africans are believed to be staying at the Campanile Hotel in Casablanca. According to De Wet, this hotel will allegedly be forced to close on 31 March and the citizens “will have nowhere to stay”.
In a statement issued by the group on Sunday, they said they had previously tried to get home as soon as Morocco declared a state of emergency.
“We made every effort to leave Morocco immediately after the announcement. However, time constraints and the lack of available flights complicated this. The complete airspace closure was immediate, unlike other countries who gave tourists more time to make alternative arrangements.”
They added that some 60 to 70 year olds, who fall within the high-risk category, were also in the stranded group. Some are on chronic medication which is about to run out, while one person is diabetic.
They pleaded with government to try to get them home.
“We would all prefer to deal with this global crisis at home with our families. Obviously standard Covid-19 protocols apply,” the statement read.
South Africa recently successfully repatriated just over 100 citizens from Wuhan, China. The group, who has not tested positive for the virus, is in quarantine at a resort in Polokwane, Limpopo.
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As of Sunday, 22 March, South Africa had 274 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
A spokesperson of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation told Business Insider on Sunday that so far no decision has been taken to repatriate South Africans from other parts of the world.
With respect to missions, government is “interacting with authorities of the countries” where citizens are stuck, and information is being fed to SA’s National Command Council, which is expected to announce new measures around the novel coronavirus after a meeting on Sunday, Business Insider reported.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to brief the nation later on Sunday at an unconfirmed time following this meeting.