Convent in South Africa Turned into COVID-19 Quarantine Facility as Fifth Nun Dies

The convent of the Congregation of the Precious Blood Sisters in South Africa’s Catholic Diocese of Umtata has been turned into a COVID-19 quarantine facility after a fifth member of the congregation succumbed to the new coronavirus.

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata Diocese confirmed the passing on of Sr. Ambrose Shabalala to News24 Thursday, June 18, a death that follows that of four other nuns who were residing at the same convent.

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

The other four who passed on between June 8 and June 14 are Sr. Celine Nxopo, Sr. Maria Cord Wardhor, Sr. Martha Anne Dlamini, and Sr. Beautrice Khofu.

Nuns based at the convent have been tested and 17 members found to be COVID-19 positive. The convent houses 40 nuns.


The Health Department in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa announced that the convent has been turned into a quarantine center.  

“We have provided the center with other essentials; we have assessed the center 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,” the spokesperson of the Eastern Cape Health Department, Sizwe Kupelo was quoted as saying.

The Health official added, “We will continue to visit and the doctor will conduct regular visits to the center.” 

Local media also reported about the “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.”

On Tuesday, June 16, the head of the convent, which is also a home for Precious Blood Sisters who are elderly, Sr. Nokwanda Bam said the ordeal began "with the infection of a Sister who works as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital." 

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"After being discovered to be infected on the 2nd of June, she was fetched by the authorities of the Hospital to a B&B for Quarantine in Mthatha," Sr. Bam added. 

In their message of condolences and solidarity, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) expressed "deep sadness and sincere sympathy to the Provincial and Sisters of the Precious Blood Congregation on the sudden passing of four of your dedicated sisters in this very short period of time."

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.