A convent of Conceptionist Sisters in the Archdiocese of Évora, Portugal is experiencing a major COVID-19 outbreak, and the local bishop is asking for prayers for the sisters and the elderly they serve.

According to a January 14 statement from the archdiocese, 14 of the 16 religious sisters have been affected by virus, as have 12 workers of the residence for the elderly "Nossa Senhora do Paço" (Our Lady of the Palace) and several residents.

"I am extremely concerned with the worrying news regarding the Conceptionist Nuns from the Immaculate Conception Monastery of Campo Maior, as well as the residents they serve," said Archbishop Francisco Senra Coelho. "We are currently awaiting further tests while all of the nuns remain isolated in their own cells."

The archbishop asked the whole archdiocese to join in prayer for a quick recovery for the whole community.

According to the superior of the Conceptionist community in Campo Maior, "there is only one sister who has more severe symptoms, such as a high fever and body aches. The rest have some cough and the initial fever is gone."

"At the moment we are all isolated, each in her cell," she continued. "The two sisters who tested negative provide us with our meals and the city hall (in Campo Maior) is being excellent with us, it is supporting us in everything we need."

Among the 14 infected nuns, the youngest is 26 years old and the oldest is 77.

The religious congregation runs the preeminent nursing house in the region, and formerly ran an outpatient program for lonely elders, who make up a significant part of the local population.

The outpatient program has been shut down since April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More in Americas

After a record-breaking surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases since Christmas, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa ordered the country into a total lockdown starting on Friday, January 15.

The government is considering exceptions so a presidential election can take place on January 24.