South African stuck in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Cape Town – A South African, working and living in Sierra Leone has found himself unable to return home, due to stringent Ebola travel restrictions.

Gerhard van Zyl, a mechanic from Bloemfontein who has been working at a diamond mine next to the Sewa river, shared his frustrations with Volksblad on Thursday, saying that he is unable to return to South Africa, as flights to and from the Ebola-hit nation have been cancelled.

According to Van Zyl, three people have died due to the virus and 200 others have been put in quarantine in Koidu, the town closest to the mine where he works, which means that the miners are pretty much surrounded by the disease.

Apart from his obvious fears, Van Zyl is also worried about the fact that he may not be able to return to South Africa in time for his son’s wedding on 27 September.

SAA recently announced that a new rule has been put into place, requiring any South Africans who want to travel to or from West Africa to request permission from the health department

Should permission be granted, Van Zyl would also probably have to undergo a stringent medical screening process on arrival in the country.

Are you or one of your loved ones stuck in West Africa due to Ebola travel restrictions? Send us your story to or tell us about it in the comment section below

Van Zyl’s case is, however, not unique, as many foreigners have found themselves stranded in the country.

Times of India recently reported that hundreds of expatriates who wanted to return to India, were unable to leave, due to the fact that most airlines had cancelled their flights to the Liberian capital of Monrovia as well as Sierra Leone’s Freetown.

In the meantime commodity prices have also been rising steadily, adding to the dismal atmosphere.

Foreigners are also not the only ones who feel trapped, as Newsweek reports that many locals, especially those in heavily affected areas, have expressed their resentment at being put under lockdown. 

While placing travel bans on these countries have seemed to make sense to most nations, virologists have warned that these restrictions could actually worsen the epidemic, as they are also putting a limit on medical and food supplies.

Nkosingiphile Ngubane 2014/09/05 10:28:46 AM
Not to sound cruel or anything but they should have evacuated the country before Ebola got worse. Chances are their return will be the thing that brings Ebola to SA. Again i know this is bad but they will have to be thoroughly checked before they enter SA.
Brian Marumo 2014/09/05 10:54:01 AM
I am sorry but them South Africans can't come here... I don't think we should take any risks... However, I doubt this thing can be contained forever and ever.
BarakYeshua ForPeace 2014/09/05 11:10:32 AM
Sacrifices have to be made for the greater good of the country. South Africa has a particular problem in that people are more densely packed together in townships and public transport, and working environments. At the first sign of trouble, the S.A. resource-dependent economy will take a massive hit, because investors will flee with their money knowing full well that S.A. mines will be most affected, with sweaty cramped crowded conditions killing off and panicking the workforce. Then all South Africans, irrespective of color, will avoid shopping malls, schools, public entertainment, and all forms of public transport including commercial flights, and those with the means and the money (the rich and famous) will immigrate with their wealth which will be the 2nd blow to the economy. Then our already overburdened health care system will have to cater for the millions being infected, plus the police and military having to deal with panicked crowds and, particularly in our violent savage society, dealing with lynch mobs probably killing and burning anyone alive suspected of carrying the disease.
Helen Vermeulen McGregor 2014/09/05 11:13:20 AM
My Brother in law is in Seirra L , works there, also can't get out. They not even allowed to Leave the compound they live on. He's there as a Project Manager for building
SunshinyDay 2014/09/05 11:52:35 AM
I feel for this guy... it must be scary knowing the disease is right down the road. The flight restrictions are a new thing though, he could have come home. I hope that no employer would force their employees to stay in such a difficult time, and the whole world has been keep very much up to date. I think this guy is going to have to Skype his son's wedding. That must be very heartbreaking for the family.
Nhlanhla Mzukulu KaNgangehawu Hlatshwayo 2014/09/05 12:10:55 PM
I so wish to know if there are any plans for illegal immigrants entering and exiting our country
Pietro Mariani 2014/09/05 12:23:33 PM
I am glad that SAA cancelled flights from West Africa. It is very sad for any south Africans out there in west Africa, but unfortunately as the saying goes let a few die for the greater good. This is very cruel I know but we have a duty to our friends family and countrymen of south Africa noty ley any one come through for west Africa at this point in time
lskosana3 2014/09/05 12:54:36 PM
Shame man, he's one of us. They can do a full medical on him when he arrives.
Angela Homan 2014/09/05 01:06:12 PM
full medical could miss something - you could go through a scanner with no fever and then have one a few hours later! they need to put him in quarantine for 10 days after the medical before he may enter - by then any sign of ebola will come to the surface...
Graham Radburnd 2014/09/05 02:02:20 PM
The Sewa River and Koidu are both in Sierra Leone, not Liberia. If you want to get out, you can. I myself flew out of Sierra Leone 2 weeks ago, using SN Brussels to fly to Brussels, and then Lufthansa down to Johannesburg. SN Brussels and Royal Air Maroc are the last 2 airlines flying into Freetown. If you use Royal Air Maroc you can pick up the Emirates flight to Dubai, and then still with Emirates down to Joburg. As I have reported on this site several times already, on arrival at Brussels there were no questions asked or any checks done on any of the 300 passengers, all of whom had either boarded the plane in Monrovia or Freetown. We had our temperatures taken twice at Freetown before boarding the plane. On the flight to Joburg, everyone was given a health questionnaire to fill in, (issued by the SA Dept. of Health). You had to state which countries you had been in over the past 14 days, (why not 21 days as Ebola can take 21 days to show any symptoms?). On arrival at OR Tambo a pleasant young lady was collecting the forms from each passenger. She wasn't even looking at the forms, just gathering them in her hands and giving a nice smile and a thank you. Some passengers didn't fill in their forms. No problem, she just moved onto the next passengers. When I handed over my form, I received the same reception. Just as she was about to move on, I told her that I had just come out of Sierra Leone. She took a step back and said that I would have to go with her.