Expatriates now allowed to self-isolate on return from abroad, says NGO

19 July 2020 - 14:50
Directions issued by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize allow for South Africans arriving back in SA to self-quarantine.
Image: 123RF/ADZIC NATASA Directions issued by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize allow for South Africans arriving back in SA to self-quarantine.

AfriForum says it welcomes regulations that have been published in the Government Gazette which stipulate that people returning to SA from abroad may self-isolate for a fixed period.

The organisation says this means its struggle of four months against compulsory quarantine in state facilities has finally borne fruit.

In one of the cases in May brought by AfriForum, the high court in Pretoria ruled that the Zithabiseni quarantine camp near Groblersdal — where more than a 100 people were kept in quarantine in unhygienic conditions — should be closed immediately.

According to Sue-Ann de Wet, AfriForum’s manager of diaspora liaison, the new regulations allow for people to self-isolate once they return to the country.

The organisation said permission to self-isolate was subject to very strict regulations, including that people who wished to do so, have to apply to the director-general of health for the necessary consent at least 72 hours before the commencement of their return journey.

Directions issued in terms of regulations dated July 17 by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize state that to qualify for self-quarantine, the person must have, among other things, a separate well-ventilated bedroom with a bathroom and toilet.

Alternatively, the person must have a residence that is not shared with people who are not subject to quarantine.

They must also have a thermometer that will enable them to measure their temperature daily.

They must have access to the internet and a phone that allows the daily reporting of symptoms. They must also have access to a private physician they can contact should they be in need of medical advice and care.

De Wet warned those coming to SA that consent for self-isolation was not guaranteed and that the conditions for self-isolation as set out in the regulations applied.

“Permission is still subject to the discretion of the officials concerned. If consent for self-isolation is refused, the person will have to remain in a state facility at the state’s expense,” De Wet said.

De Wet said the facilities and individuals’ experience of compulsory quarantine had been very diverse.

“In some cases facilities did not meet the requirements at all, while in some cases personal circumstances made it difficult for people to be confined in an unfamiliar environment for many days.

“AfriForum therefore welcomes the department’s adjustment of the regulations. We are all the more pleased that we opposed the quarantine measure in court,” De Wet said.