CNA Staff, Mar 1, 2021 / 06:00 am America/Denver (CNA).
A body representing religious men and women has questioned the exclusion of elderly religious from the early stages of coronavirus vaccination programs in Belgium.
In a letter dated Feb. 19, Br. Robert Thunus, president of the Conference of Religious Women and Men in Belgium (COREB), told Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgium’s Minister of Health and Social Affairs, that the treatment of elderly religious was “totally inconsistent.”
Belgium, a country of 11.5 million people bordering France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, is widely reported to have the world’s highest COVID-19 death rate. More than 771,500 people have tested positive for coronavirus and over 22,000 have died in Belgium as of March 1, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
In the letter, seen by CNA, Thunus explained that he was writing regarding around 1,750 religious men and women, most of whom are over 75 years of age. He expressed concern that they were being treated differently from elderly people who lived in certified care homes, despite facing a similar risk of coronavirus outbreaks.
The letter was first reported on Feb. 24 by CathoBel, the website of the Catholic Church in Belgium, which noted that homes for elderly religious varied according to the congregation. Some only house disabled people or the very old, while others include able-bodied residents who look after those who are more frail. But in all cases, community life poses an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.