South Africa has evacuated more than 5,000 from various parts of the world during lockdown, said the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor on Thursday at a virtual press briefing.
“We have facilitated the repatriation of 5,239 South Africans stranded abroad (by air). Hundreds more have also returned through our land borders. This means that more South Africans have now been repatriated than the initial 3,637 who had requested repatriation,” said Pandor.
South Africa implemented a nation-wide lockdown from March 26 to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and stopped flights from entering or leaving the country which made South Africans who were traveling overseas not able to return home.
The government then stepped in to assist citizens in distress, which included those stranded at airports; students who were asked to evacuate their places of residence as many countries were implementing their own lockdowns; the elderly; and those who needed medical attention.
“The pandemic has disrupted nations, corporations and our daily lives. The repatriation was carried through collaboration across several departments and were fortunate to have the trust of our citizens that we would assist. Several countries supported the repatriation efforts, as did interested organizations,” she said.
Pandor said the government has spent less than 10 million rand (about 560,000 USD) on the repatriation process thanks to the donation of jet fuel, which significantly reduced any cost the government might have had to bear.