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(File) Religious women in SA (File) Religious women in SA 

South Africa: COVID-19 infections in religious communities

The second wave of COIVD-19, in South Africa, is devastating religious communities.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

Among the latest afflicted are the Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese, KwaZulu Natal. The deaths of six religious women were announced by Sr Nkhensani Shibambu CSA, who is President of South Africa’s Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life LCCL.

Deaths within a week

In a message seen by Vatican News, Friday evening, Sr. Shibambu said that the Sisters died within the last seven days.

“It is with great sadness and shock that we announce the death of six sisters from the Daughters of Saint Francis in Port Shepstone, Marianhill Diocese. Sisters Elmara Skhakhane FSF, Leonissa Nzimande FSF (78), Colleta Msomi FSF (78), Anastasia Mthetwa FSF (86), Amara Madlala FSF (75) and Edmunda Nkomo FSF (80) passed away as a result of COVID-19. The sisters all died within a week, from 10-17 December 2020. Fifteen other sisters are said to be critically ill,” stated Sr. Shibambu.

Health Minister Confirms second COIVD-19 wave

Last week Wednesday South Africa’s Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, confirmed that the country was experiencing a COVID-19 second wave.

“This evening we wish to announce that as South Africa we are now experiencing a second wave … It is also important to highlight that four provinces, that being, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng Province are the key drivers of this new wave,” said Mkhize.

None of us is immune to this pandemic

Referencing the Christmas season, Sr. Shibambu spoke of pain and loss even as Christians prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ.

“At a time and season of Advent hope, this certainly comes as a deep wound to the Church, the Congregation and the Conference at large.  This is a very painful reminder that the scourge of COVID-19 is yet to lessen its devastation to communities and society at large. As the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life, we are deeply hurt by the loss of lives under this spell of COVID-19. We send not only consolatory messages to the Congregation of the Daughters of Saint Francis but also urge all religious congregations and communities to be extra vigilant and cautious in light of the deadly and subtle Second Wave of the pandemic. None of us is immune to this pandemic.  In the absence of a vaccine, we remain our own best defence against the virus and the least we can do is to continue adhering to the safety protocols of COVID-19 prevention and containment especially as most people and communities gather for the celebration of the festive season and beyond,” said Sr. Shibambu.

SA government monitoring the situation

On Friday, this week, South Africa reported a cumulative total of 901 538 COVID-19 cases with 8 725 being new cases. South Africa currently accounts for a third of reported COVID-19 cases on the African continent.

At the peak of the first wave, the South African government introduced an unprecedented nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, by September, cases had reduced significantly.

Vaccines: COVAX and the Africa vaccine acquisition initiative

In a nationwide address to South Africa, on Monday, this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that the festive season could make matters worse. He called upon South Africans to observe the COVID-19 guidelines. He also spoke of efforts being made to make available vaccines to the nation.

“South Africa has concluded all the necessary processes to ensure participation in the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 global vaccine access facility. This facility, known as COVAX, pulls resources and shares vaccine development risk to ensure equitable access to vaccines when they become available. As part of this facility, it is expected that South Africa will receive initial vaccines to cover ten per cent of our population in the early part of next year. We are also part of the Africa vaccine acquisition task team that I set -up as Chair of the African Union (AU) and this is looking at alternative financing mechanisms to secure additional vaccines for African countries beyond the COVAX facility,” Ramaphosa told South Africans.   

WHO’s COVAX scheme aims to provide 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 to low and middle-income countries at a maximum cost of $3 a dose.

19 December 2020, 10:03