The nuns, who are members of the Daughters of St Francis in Port Shepstone in the diocese of Umzimkulu, started dying on December 10 with the latest victim having been found dead yesterday morning.
According to Sister Dominica Mkhize, the leader of the congregation, Sisters Elmara Skhakhane (72), Leonissa Nzimande (78), Colleta Msomi (78), Anastasia Mthetwa (86), Amara Madlala (75), Edmunda Nkomo (80) and Helen Cele (88) died of Covid-19.
The latest victim cannot be named until her family is informed of her death.“On December 8 we celebrated our foundation and there were people from various parts of the province in attendance.
We suspect that that is how they may have contracted the virus. The government has sent the provincial health department to assess the situation so we hope that there will be some assistance from them to help the convent deal with the situation,” said Sister Mkhize.
The president of the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life of South Africa (LCCLSA), Sister Nkhensani Shibambu, said the deaths came as a deep wound to the church and to the congregation 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 LCCLSA 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,” said Sister Shibambu.
She said: “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.”
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said the province was currently ranked as the fourth biggest Covid-19 contributor countrywide in terms of laboratory-confirmed cases and has observed a substantial increase in the number of new cases in the past two weeks.“We are currently in week 51 of 2020.
For week 50, the actual number of confirmed cases was 9 857, while for week 51, the number is 10 194. This marks a 4% increase in infections between week 50 and 51. Over the past week, the highest number of cases received was 2 912 on Saturday (1 December), while the average number of cases recorded daily was 2 165 cases/day,” Zikalala said during a media briefing in Mayville yesterday.
He said that the eThekwini district had continued to record the highest number of new cases daily and contributed about half of the total laboratory-confirmed cases provincially.
“We are concerned at the fact that the province is experiencing an increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths reported daily. The actual number of deaths, which occurred during week 50, was 68 and for week 51 it was 111. We must hasten to add that these are cumulative numbers – not numbers reported on a single day. The province has also experienced an increase in the number of home deaths. We once again appeal to the public to rather come to our health-care facilities,” Zikalala said.
He said there were 7 891 health-care workers infected with the virus in the public sector since the beginning of the pandemic. Of the total infected, 91 (or 1%) had died.
The recent cluster outbreaks in gatherings have proven to be fatal, including the church gathering that took place in Assisi Convent, he said.
He said as of December 18, a total of 717 patients were admitted for Covid-19 and 1274 were admitted as persons under investigation in public health facilities.
As of December 18, private hospitals in KZN had 1506 patients admitted, with the majority being in eThekwini, with 1008 patients.
He said the situation was being reviewed on a daily basis, and additional beds would be made available if necessary.
“We wish to make a renewed call to the public to partner with the government as we try our utmost to navigate our way out of this deadly second wave of Covid-19. The only way that we will make it out of this is through taking personal ownership of the responsibility that we all have, which is to avoid acquiring and/or transmitting the virus to others. It is individuals that transport and help the virus to travel. The worst has not passed, it is still with us. What we see as the challenge or a key question is whether are we disciplined enough to adhere to the warnings that will save our lives and those of our loved ones,” said Zikalala.
He appealed to pastors, traditional leaders, mayors, councillors, community leaders and citizens to play their part and prohibit activities that may super-spread the virus.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said: “We urge religious leaders to be cognisant of the numbers in their gatherings. We are appealing to them to go back to virtual gatherings because this particular strain was unpredictable. “People must go to health-care facilities as soon as they notice symptoms of Covid-19,” she said.