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262 stranded South Africans repatriated from India ‘relieved to be home’

South Africans who were stranded in India for months landed in Johannesburg on Sunday night. Here they are pictured taking a bus to the airport in India.
South Africans who were stranded in India for months landed in Johannesburg on Sunday night. Here they are pictured taking a bus to the airport in India.

More than 260 South Africans who were stranded in India for more than two months have returned home.

The group landed at OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg late on Sunday night and were transported via minibuses to the Indaba hotel in Fourways where they will be in quarantine for 14 days.

They were visiting different parts of India for business and leisure when the coronavirus pandemic forced both the India and SA governments to close their borders and cancel flights.

Family and friends in SA started an online campaign to petition the government to repatriate them.

Their repatriation cost them R15,000 each, including the SAA flight, hotel accommodation for the quarantine, meals and the coronavirus test.

Pravienna Naidoo, whose elderly mother and aunt were stuck in Tirupati, in southern India, told TimesLIVE that they were exhausted but relieved to be home.

“Everybody has not returned of course. There were a few who got left behind. One lady who contacted me had to stay back after her mother fell and fractured her hip. She has not seen her 14-year-old son in months. 

“Everybody is fine. It has been a long, tiring experience for them all. There were a couple of glitches here and there, but they are home and that's what matters. 

“In India, for instance, the older people and those in wheelchairs were able to board first. Here when they disembarked, it was a free-for-all. That was a serious oversight.

“Many of them got their rooms at the hotel at 2.30 on Monday morning. We managed to take their warm clothes to them. 

“All their meals will be delivered to their rooms and they will get 20 minutes of sunshine every day.”

Naidoo said testing for the virus was expected to take place in about six days.

Sadhana Ryan, who was part of the repatriated group, told Lotus FM that “in the end they (government) did come through for us and we are very grateful for that”.

She described the procedure at the airport in India as “rigorous and strict”.

“It was a very long process. We got there at 9am and we started boarding at 1pm. We only left there after 2pm.”

Ryan said they were working to help the few South Africans left behind to return home.

“Somehow, some way we will make a plan. We are very grateful to be back home. We landed at 9pm and got to our quarantine facility at 1am on Monday under police convoy.”

Ryan said while the processes were long they were “fluid”.

“We are very comfortable and really have nothing to complain about. We are quarantined in our rooms for at least five days until the health authorities come and proceed with testing.

“All our meals are knock and drop. Family are allowed to bring essentials, which are clothing and medication, and drop that with security,” she said.

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