Hundreds of South Africans head home after being stranded due to pandemic

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MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds of people from South Africa are heading home after the coronavirus pandemic left them stranded in South Florida.

More than 300 South African citizens checked in at Miami International Airport on Tuesday to begin their long journey back home.

“We didn’t expect this at all, so it’s an exciting journey, I guess, in one aspect, but it’s very daunting,” a traveler said. “I feel ecstatic about it all. I think that this has been quite surprising.”

International recruiting agency Workaway brings young people to the Sunshine State to work from November to May, but when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the workers were stuck without a job and without a way to get home.

“I’ve been trying to go home for a while,” a second traveler said. “Flights have been cancelled up and down. I feel great. It’s good to go home.”

“I’m anxious; we’re scared,” Lance January said. “We don’t know what is happening. This is our third attempt flying out, so now that we’re actually going home, we’re kind of excited, but we’re kind of like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ The first time we did it, before we even packed, they told us the flight was cancelled, so we couldn’t go anywhere. The second time, we were actually loading onto the bus, or getting onto the bus, and they cancelled it just like that, and we got so frustrated at it because we were like, ‘Are we going to eventually get home? Are we going to see our loved ones?'”

Thankfully, Workaway worked with South Africa Airlines to get the workers home, which is something that would have been impossible if they had been on their own.

“Commercial flights to South Africa have been shut down,” Workaway International President William Mayville said. “The country’s locked down, and the government has given us special permission to charter a flight to get their citizens back into the country.”

The charter flight is set to land in three South African cities: Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Once the passengers land, they will have to remain quarantined in hotels for two weeks, and some said they do not know what to expect once they arrive. However, they are counting their blessings they are able to get home.

“Overall it’s been an exciting chapter, even though this has all happened, and this is the way life goes — just a new unexpected journey ahead,” the first traveler said.

Workaway said it took three weeks to schedule the Tuesday charter flight, and they are working to set up another charter flight in about 10 days.

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