Convent turned into quarantine site after fifth nun dies

Another elderly nun has died after contracting Covid-19 at the Precious Blood Sisters convent in Mthatha, bringing the death toll to five in a space of nine days

This has prompted the Eastern Cape Department of Health to turn the convent into a quarantine site.

The death of 82-year-old Ambrose Shabalala comes as the motherhouse convent of the PBS, a Roman Catholic Church female order, has been devastated by a surge in coronavirus cases.

Shabalala died while the small community of nuns was still reeling from the deaths of sisters Celine Nxopo, Maria Cord Wardhor, Martha Anne Dlamini and Beautrice Khofu.

The four died between 8 and 14 June and were all above the age of 60. The convent doubles up as an old age home.

The PBS had announced on Tuesday the death of the four and 17 confirmed positive cases at the convent.

On Thursday, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of the Roman Catholic Church Mthatha Diocese, confirmed the death of Shabalala to News24.

"She died yesterday at around 10:00 and will be buried this coming Saturday. Sister Ambrose was in her 80s. We can confirm the terrible news, indeed we lost another soul."

Sipuka said the convent has a community of 40 people.

Sister in charge Nokwanda Bam had said on Tuesday that 17 nuns tested positive, 15 tested negative while three were awaiting their results.

On Thursday, the province's health department announced an allocation of a medical doctor, two nursing assistants, a professional nurse and an enrolled nursing assistant to mitigate the spread of the virus at the convent.

Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said: "We have provided the centre with other essentials, we have assessed the centre and concluded that they have got adequate facility for quarantine and self-isolation, and education has been provided on how the quarantined and isolated should conduct themselves. We will continue to visit and the doctor will conduct regular visits to the centre."

Nxopo was buried on Monday, seven days after her death, Bam had previously confirmed.

Cord Wardhor died on 12 June, Dlamini the following day, while Khofu died on 14 June.

In the statement on Tuesday, Bam said the deaths began with the infection of a sister who works as a nurse at St Mary's Hospital in Mthatha.

Life Healthcare group general manager for emergency medicine, Dr Charl van Loggerenberg, said the nurse had been removed from the convent to a quarantine site paid for by the hospital.