International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor says there are 1471 South Africans stuck abroad who have indicated they want to come back home as the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread rapidly around the world.
Pandor said of the 1 471 citizens that there 723 students, 224 were employed and 224 were tourists and another 320 with an unknown status.
The minister said measures were being put in place to repatriate those South Africans stuck overseas, but priority would be given to those stuck at airports and those with no accommodation and access to food.
Pandor said South Africans stuck abroad who could afford to fund their own return should do so.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had earlier announced that he would be tweaking regulations regarding travel due to the coronavirus.
Mbalula said the bulk of the regulations, which ban travel from all countries and domestic flights, were still in place and that the changes were only related to certain circumstances.
Mbalula said the South African airspace was only open for medical evacuation flights, technical landings, emergency landing and flights passing over.
He said the Port Elisabeth, Bloemfontein and Kruger airports would be on standby to assist in situations of need.
Mbalula said foreign countries had also negotiated to allow for their citizens to be repatriated. He said counties would be allowed to charter passenger flights to South Africa, however there should be no passengers and the crew would not be allowed to disembark.
Mbalula stressed that those South Africans who disembark or would be repatriated would be subjected to testing and screening and would be quarantined.
He also said cargo would also be sanitised.
Meanwhile, Pandor said those South Africans who were not stranded should stay where they are until the situation eases.
There have also been reports from stranded South Africans who claim travel agencies were forcing them to purchase additional tickets. Pandor warned that this was not the time for profit-making and travel agencies should help customers.
Mbalula also confirmed that SAA would fly Germans stuck in the country to Germany at the cost of the German government.
The SAA flight should not come back with any passengers except South Africans, who would be quarantined on their return.
By Zintle Mahlati