GEORGE NEWS - Georgian LeeAnne Pratt arrived in South Africa last week Thursday, 26 March, from South Korea where she had been working on Jeju Island for the past year.
Pratt said the past few weeks have been a stressful time after her first flight home was cancelled due to Covid-19, and she was extremely grateful to be on home soil, even though in quarantine in a hotel in Boksburg.
"It was such a relief that my travel agent found a flight from Seoul to Johannesburg via Ethiopia at a time when airlines were halting operations everywhere," Pratt told George Herald from her hotel room.
She already started to experience the effect of Covid-19 on the world when she visited New Zealand and Australia in February, before the end of her last stretch at the two schools where she was working.
"Two of my flights from Australia to Jeju were cancelled. When I finally got back to Jeju at the beginning of March, I had to self-isolate for two weeks."
Upon arrival at OR Tambo last Thursday, she was among a group of about 100 South Africans who had to go into quarantine for 14 days.
Swab tests were performed on everyone and accommodation was organised for all after a lengthy wait on the airport.
"At the moment, I'm a bit worried about what is going to happen next. There is no communication and I can't find out how I'm going to get to George since travel between the provinces is prohibited, but otherwise all is going well.
"Airplane meals are delivered to my door and fortunately I like airplane food!"
In response to the newspaper's query, Jethro Grootboom, Garden Route coordinator for Government Communications, said Pratt and others in the group will be handled the same way as the 114 South Africans who were extracted from Wuhan.
"After the 14 days of quarantine, they will be allowed to reunite with their families. Government will foot the bill for Ms Pratt's stay as well as travelling back to George."
Pratt worked as an English teacher at two schools on Jejy, namely Jeju Seo Elementary and the Gwakgeum Elementary School. She taught about 470 children each week in Grades 3 to 6. She said communication proved to be a challenge with not many Koreans being fluent in English.
During her stay, she had the opportunity to break away to Canada last year, and to New Zealand and Australia during February this year.
Asked how she remained safe while travelling at a time that the novel coronavirus was starting to spread, she said, "I've been social distancing since January already, because I knew I was going on holiday in February. Also, wearing masks in Korea is very normal because of the air pollution so I've been wearing a mask every time I left my apartment for months. And because it was winter, I always wore my gloves and didn't touch any surfaces outside my apartment or office, i.e. my known environments."
She said while in Korea, she and her mother, Gerda, who had joined her for the holiday, experienced "foreign-ism".
"Some shops and restaurants had signs on their doors saying no foreigners were allowed. Wearing masks on public transport and in shops was also more stringently applied to foreigners, aka waygooks," said Pratt.
Free coronavirus testing
She said the medical system in South Korea is good. "I was on their health care insurance because I worked there. Initially they made the test for the virus free for anyone who wanted to be tested, even if you were an illegal immigrant. After a while you had to pay for the test if your result was negative. I didn't do the test in South Korea.
"When I arrived back in South Korea after my Oz holiday, every person who disembarked had to be screened. We had to download an app from the ministry of health. They checked if the phone number you gave them really worked by calling it at the airport, and for the next two weeks of self-isolation we had to daily complete the app questions asking if we had any symptoms. The GPS tracked that we were at home. If you didn't complete the app, they would phone you."
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