AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - The Church raises the alarm over the spread of the "South African variant" of Covid-19

Monday, 18 January 2021 coronavirus   local churches   healthcare   pandemic  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - In southern Africa there is concern about the spread of the so-called South African variant of the Sars-Cov2 virus, responsible for the Covid-19 disease. "We have been reliably informed by the Ministry of Health that the second wave of Covid-19 has firmly been established in Zambia", writes in a statement His Exc. Mgr. Patrick Chisanga, Bishop of Mansa, President of the Zambian Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB). "There is an escalation in both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. This surge in cases is further accompanied by an increase in the severity of the disease requiring hospitalization and oxygen therapy", said Mgr. Chisanga, who adds: "the new infections are more transmissible and more widely spread in terms of geographical locations" hence if the "trajectory continues, the lockdown of epic centres would be inevitable, with all the devastating consequences of such a situation". Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has expressed concerns about laxity in the implementation of the COVID-19 measures that would be the main cause of the increase in cases. "When the first wave of COVID-19 hit Zambia in March 2020, we all scampered and took cover. Compliance to guidelines for fighting COVID-19 was at highest in the first three months. We soon developed familiarity with the virus as statistics played out in our favour with very few fatalities and very high numbers of recoveries", says a note from the JCTR. However, they say, "complacency has since set in and we are now in harm’s way as COVID-19 has now resurfaced in Zambia with vengeance in a strain that is spreading more quickly and easily than the previous strains". Even in South Africa, the increase in cases linked to the new strain is worrying. "In the light of the current COVID-19 surge and the restrictions imposed by the State President, as well as uncertainty of what will happen later this month, we have decided to hold a virtual Plenary Meeting as opposed to the physical meeting that was anticipated", announced the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), the Conference that brings together the Bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland. The decision was made due to the wave of Covid-19 cases, largely in the new variant of the virus identified in South Africa, which has affected, among others, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban, His Exc. Mgr. Abel Gabuza. The new variant caused the death of six Catholic nuns of the Daughters of St. Francis in Port Shepstone, diocese of Marianhill, following complications from the coronavirus within a week, from 10 to 17 December 2020 (see Fides, 22/12/2020 ). South Africa has recorded the largest number of coronavirus infections in Africa, approaching the threshold of 900,000 cases, with over 20,000 deaths. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/1/2021)