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Archbishop, nuns among India's spiraling Covid-19 cases

12 nuns and their domestic help are attached to St. Vincenza Gerosa Hospital in Assam

Archbishop, nuns among India's spiraling Covid-19 cases

St. Vincenza Gerosa Hospital was sealed off after 12 nuns working there tested positive for Covid-19 on July 5. (Photo: supplied)

A Catholic archbishop and 12 nuns are among thousands of persons who have tested positive for Covid-19 in India in the past three days.

The nuns work at a church-run hospital in the northeastern state of Assam. State officials sealed off their hospital and moved them to a government facility for treatment.

Retired Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore in southern India tested positive for Covid-19 on July 3 during a routine check-up at church-run St. John's Medical College. His condition is stable, the hospital said.

The prelate and nuns are among some 700,000 Covid-19 cases reported in India as of July 5. Some 24,000 people tested positive on July 5 in the worst single-day spike in the country. Close to 20,000 have already died.

India has been struggling to flatten the coronavirus curve since cases began to increase in mid-March. Since July, the country has been adding more than 20,000 infections each day, with more people testing positive even in villages.

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The 12 nuns and their domestic help who tested positive on July 5 are attached to St. Vincenza Gerosa Hospital in Dibrugarh Diocese.

The government tested the nuns as they were tracking the contacts of the hospital's nun-administrator, who tested positive a few days ago. The infected nuns include a doctor working in the hospital.

"They are all now moved to the government medical college in Guwahati," Assam's commercial capital, Father Palatty Devassy, secretary to the bishop of Dibrugarh, told UCA News on July 6.

"Government officials have now sealed the hospital and started sanitization work in the hospital, where currently 10 general patients are admitted." 

The nuns also take care of some 60 patients with psychiatric complaints in a separate section of the hospital. "It continues to function as other nuns and staff are taking care of them," the priest explained.

He said the 100-bed hospital "was the lifeline for poor people" in the area and Arunachal Pradesh state.

The hospital was established in 1970 by the Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa, also called the Bambina Sisters.

The Bambina Sisters worked with Assam Medical College earlier when "medical facilities in the state were very poor," Father Devassy said.

After local people trained and took charge of the government facility, the nuns moved to Dibrugarh and started their own hospital to continue with their mission of serving the poor, he said.

Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh appealed to Catholics to pray for the nuns' recovery. 

"They were rendering marvelous service for the poor through this hospital, and now it is closed for new patients," the Salesian prelate told UCA News on July 6.

He expressed hope that the hospital will be reopened soon after proper sanitization.

Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao in Arunachal Pradesh also appealed to Catholics to pray for the nuns' speedy recovery.

"Earlier, when other parts of the country reported Covid-19 cases, our region was untouched, but now we too are not spared," said Father Felix Anthony, public relations officer of the North-Eastern Regional Bishops' Council that covers 15 dioceses in the region.

Assam, the worst-affected northeastern state, recorded its highest single-day spike of 1,202 cases on July 5. The state has recorded 11,001 confirmed cases but 6,740 have already recovered. At least 14 people have died from the pandemic.

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