Philippine cardinal, 130 nuns, convent staff test positive for COVID-19

Cardinal Jose Advincula Cardinal Jose Advincula kneels to pray after entering the Manila Cathedral at the start of his installation as the 33rd archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila on June 24, 2021. | Jose Torres Jr. / LiCAS News

Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila has tested positive for COVID-19, two days after a religious congregation in the Philippine capital announced that 62 of its nuns also tested positive for COVID.

In a statement released on Friday, Sept. 17, the Archdiocese of Manila said that aside from a “slight fever,” the archbishop “does not feel any other symptoms.”

“He is in quarantine, observing strict protocols. Doctors are also monitoring his condition,” read the statement.

Earlier, the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary said that 62 of its nuns and at least 50 of its staff — caregivers, health aides, and drivers — also tested positive for the disease.

In a statement released on Sept. 15, the religious congregation said the infections were confirmed after the nuns were tested on Sept. 10.

The congregation said that, since Sept. 14, the entire convent located in Quezon City “has been on lockdown” and is “fully cooperating” with health officials.

Another religious congregation of nuns, the Holy Spirit Sisters, also reported 22 COVID cases and one death. In one of its convents, which is also located in the national capital, 13 nuns and nine staff members tested positive for COVID; the congregation said that one of the nuns has since died of the disease.

A statement by the city’s Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit said it has started investigating how the nuns were infected.

The nuns were still waiting to be vaccinated, according to health officials, although all the staff members were fully vaccinated.

The sisters said the outbreak may have been caused by an asymptomatic visitor to one of its elderly sisters.

“We seldom leave the convent. But from time to time we allow fully vaccinated visitors to visit especially if they are family members of our elderly sisters,” read the congregation’s statement.

The Philippines on Friday reported 20,336 new COVID-19 cases, with more than 300 deaths - the highest in almost a month.

The country's total COVID-19 cases stood at 2,324,475, with active infections at 188,108, or 8.1% of the running tally. 

Positivity rate is at 26.6% based on the test results of 75,766 people, according to the health department’s latest bulletin, exceeding one positive result out of every four tests.

Experts said earlier that community transmission of the more contagious Delta variant, as well as the public's violation of health protocols, have contributed to the country's record infections. 

The Philippines shifted to an alert level quarantine scheme this week in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19 cases while trying to revive the pandemic-battered economy.

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