South Africa has asked the Hong Kong government not to routinely send travellers from the country to quarantine camps when they arrive in the city.
Madoda Ntshinga, Pretoria’s consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, said the policy could be seen as discriminatory, when arrivals from Britain and the United States, two countries that have struggled to contain the coronavirus, were not subject to similar treatment.
“We have just appealed to the Hong Kong government that having observed all the regulations and measures we have taken, especially the lockdown regulations, we do qualify to be one of the countries that can be put as one of the better countries handling the pandemic,” Ntshinga said.
An estimated 200 South Africans, who live and work in Hong Kong, had been stuck in their native country, but a group of 36 returned on Thursday afternoon on a commercial flight, and some were sent to a government quarantine camp in Pat Heung.
The Post has approached the Department of Health for comment.
For the past seven weeks, South Africa has observed a strict lockdown, closing its borders to visitors – and halting all movement within its provinces – enforcing curfews and giving strict instructions on social distancing and hygiene practices, including the mandatory use of masks.
Ntshinga said his country’s efforts had not been given enough recognition by Hong Kong.
“In line with our strategic relationship with the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong, we feel we do need to talk to each other and they need to see our side of the story,” he said.
The consul general said South Africans were responsible people who could be trusted to serve their quarantine at home.
“Generally speaking I think they are responsible enough, like Australians, British and Americans staying in the same residential facilities,” he said.
“[Do not] differentiate between [us and] the Americans and Europeans. Once you do that, you run the risk of being accused of some sort of discrimination and that is a very sensitive topic for all of us in South Africa, both black and white.”
Residents returning from Pakistan and India are also subject to a 14-day stay in government quarantine, and the Immigration Department is in the process of helping about 2,000 residents stranded in Pakistan and another 3,200 in India return home.
On its Covid-19 website, the Department of Health said it considered South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal to be among high-risk countries because of their “relatively low testing rate per capita”.
South Africa had conducted 403,018 Covid-19 tests as of Thursday, or 6,972 per million people. Hong Kong had managed 180,000 tests, or 23,800 per million people.