The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mariannhill, west of Durban, has confirmed that the number of nuns that have succumbed to COVID-19 has now risen to nine. These nuns, who belonged to Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese, all died a few days apart from 10 December.

Nine nuns are now confirmed to have died from COVID-19 related illnesses as the country experiences the second wave of the pandemic.

The church says only three nuns are still in hospital and two of them are in a critical condition after contracting the virus.

Sister Dominica Mkhize says all the affected nuns had attended a church function in the past two weeks. They were stationed at a convent in Port Shepstone on the province’s south coast.

Sister Mkhize says they are also running short of staff at their old age facilities because several staff members are now under quarantine. Mkhize is calling for the donations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“The congregation of the daughters of St Francis of Assisi is greatly saddened these days following the loss of nine members within a very short span of time, within 11 days only. We put aside for ourselves one building in case there would be one or two cases that could need isolation or fomenting special care. But what is happening right now is overwhelming that structure which we had prepared. The situation appeals for assistance namely medical staff, to be added, as well as additional caregivers and more PPE. The staff of our old age home cannot cope with the amount of work that is there now.”

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu is encouraging communities to avoid gatherings at all costs in order to stop the spread of the virus.

Simelane-Zulu says the department will offer support to the church.

“We are calling on all the religious organisations, the churches, to be aware that, yes, we had our peak around July, August and we went through it, but we are now faced with a new situation. We might be on Level 1 lockdown. However, the circumstances that we are faced with are pushing us to ensure that we reduce the number of people that we have or the number of people that actually engage are in one room at any given time. As the Department of Health, in reality, we are calling on people to avoid gatherings because sometimes it becomes very difficult to separate people from each other. Particularly, when you are attending a church gathering, you are singing, you sing next to each other. It becomes really impossible to be practical with the protocols.”

The church says the latest death was reported during the early hours Monday morning.

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