South African teacher Sizwe Sibiya is anxiously awaiting repatriation from Wuhan, China’s epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, where he has barely left his flat for almost two months.
South Africa’s government promised to fly home 184 of its nationals — mostly students and teachers — who are residing in the city. But no date has been set for their return.
“The suspense is killing us right now,” Sibiya said. “Everybody is talking about packing and just being ready for the call.”
Sibiya, 40, his wife and their five-year-old daughter have been confined to their apartment in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, for more than 50 days.
“It has been a very, very taxing exercise, both physically and mentally,” said Sibiya, who spoke to AFP over video chat.
“You end up missing just the basic things like seeing people, hearing people make noise.”
Sibiya moved to Wuhan in 2016 with his wife and daughter, who was aged one at the time.
The whole family has been kept indoors since January 17, after Chinese authorities imposed travel restrictions in Hubei to curb the spread of the virus.
About 56 million people have been effectively housebound by the lockdown.
“We are all humans, now and then we crave the human touch,” Sibiya said, haggard from the quarantine.
“Being away from people, the public, for such a long time is definitely not a nice experience.”
The number of coronavirus cases has risen worldwide to more than 110,000, with more than 3,800 dead across 100 nations and territories since it emerged in December.
South Africa confirmed its first case last week, and now a total of seven people have tested positive.
“You watch the news and you can see the numbers of people who are infected going up,” said Sibiya, who has grown increasingly concerned about his safety.
He added that sometimes he wandered who would be next.
“Is it me?” he asked. “Is it my family? My friends?”
While the outbreak has flared up in Europe and other parts of the world, new infections reported from Hubei have been on a downward trend for several weeks.
“We are all looking forward to being at home,” said Sibiya. “It has been incredibly hard for everybody.”
“It’s quite cold here, its still winter,” he added. “So we are looking forward to the sun.”