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160 Catholic Priests in India Succumb to COVID-19 in 38 Days

Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur says priests and nuns are starting to fear for their safety.

Some 160 Catholic priests in India have died from COVID-19 from April 10 to May 17. This is according to a report by Fr. Suresh Mathew, editor of the Church-run Indian Currents magazine.

According to Fr. Mathew, the list is still yet to be updated as there are deaths during the second wave of the pandemic that have not been reported. (Read: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 in India)

“Even this initial list is very alarming, as we have only some 30,000 Catholic priests and if four die daily, it is a matter of great concern for all of us,” Fr. Mathew explained.

The list includes religious and diocesan priests of the Catholic Church of India, including the Latin-rite Church and the two eastern-rites— the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches.

Quarantine Centre for Priests and Nuns

PROTOCOLS. An election official checks the temperature of Catholic nuns from the Missionaries of Charity before they cast their vote outside a polling station in Kolkata, India, April 29, 2021. (Photo from Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters/Rappler)

Ever since the pandemic started, priests and nuns in India have been risking their lives daily to carry out their pastoral duties. (Read: Pope Francis Establishes Ministry of Catechist)

However, with the rising number of Catholic communities infected by COVID-19, Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur says many are starting to become fearful for their safety.

To ensure that everyone has access to basic medical facilities and to build confidence among his peers, Bishop Almeida has set up a special quarantine center for priests and nuns.

The center has four nurses on duty and a doctor who visits the patients daily. Patients who are found to be positive for COVID-19 are immediately moved to the quarantine center, while those that are critical are taken to hospitals.

“We only shift critical patients to specialized hospitals. We take care of others until they recover,” said Bishop Almeida.

300,000 New Cases Daily

Family members of Covid-19 infected patients stand in a queue with empty oxygen cylinders outside the oxygen filling center in New Delhi on April 23rd. (Photo from Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images/The Verge)

Since mid-April, India has been seeing more than 300,000 new cases daily. Hospitals are running out of available beds, oxygen, and vital medicines, while patients had to wait in hospital corridors for medical attention.

As of writing, India’s Health Ministry has already reported a total of 281,386 new infections daily— a drop from 300,000 for the first time since April 21. (Read: A Prayer to End the Pandemic Sooner)

Total deaths in the country were put at 274,390, although experts say government figures are highly undercounted.

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