China's ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Coronavirus outbreak: Chinese ambassador advises SA nationals to stay in China, rather than return home


The panic about the coronavirus is "man-made and unnecessary" and South African nationals are advised to stay in China.

This is according to China's ambassador in South Africa, Lin Songtian, who said on Friday that only 27 out of millions of foreign nationals in China had been diagnosed with the virus.

"It is unsafe, costly and risky for any foreigner to fly back to their mother country at this moment because long-distance flying is very risky," he said at a press briefing in Cape Town.

"They are not bringing loyalty, but virus back to their homeland… only to bring risk and threat to the health of their family, friends and fellow countrymen."

READ | Coronavirus: 67 tests come up negative, still no cases in SA

There are about 3 000 South African students in China, including 165 in Hubei province where the virus broke out.

Songtian said they were providing food and medical care to those in need.

"China has the confidence, capability and resources, and has been making and will make every effort to ensure the daily life and the health and safety of each and every SA national in China, especially the SA students," said Songtian.

He also advised South African teachers and students who were home for the holidays not to return to China until the government there had opened schools and universities.

They were advised to get in contact with the embassy regarding any issues with flight tickets or expired visas.

'Epicentre of coronavirus outbreak'

Kamohelo Taole from Bloemfontein, who graduated last month, previously told News24 that he was supposed to be back home, but instead found himself stuck in Wuhan.

He has been in China for six years, four of which he spent in Wuhan as an international economics and trade student at the Hubei University of Technology.

"Honestly, this experience is terrifying because we are at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak," he said at the time.

Songtian also responded to reports that South African post office workers had refused to handle packages from China unless they had protective masks and gloves.

READ | Coronavirus: SA man describes life in quarantine

"There is no evidence to show that mail or parcels can transmit viruses," he said.

"It cannot survive on object surfaces for a long time. Receiving international deliveries will not infect people."

On Wednesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that 67 individual tests for the novel coronavirus had come up negative, meaning that South Africa continued to have no confirmed cases.

Songtian said that should there be a confirmed case, he had every faith that South Africa was equipped and well prepared for it.

He thanked President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC, SACP, the government, business community, think tanks, the media and citizens for their understanding and support of China's fight against the epidemic.