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Mbarara Archdiocese Faces 7-day Closure as COVID-19 Kills Two Priests

Mbarara Archdiocese is set to be closed for a week after COVID-19 killed two priests in a space of one week with another fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at Nsambya Hospital, Kampala.

“As we give farewell to our beloved Rev.  Fr. Irenaeus Karenzi, we wish to inform the general public that his death was related to Covid-19,” said the archdiocese’s spokesperson, Rev. Fr. Fidelis Betungura on Sunday night.

The matter had been kept secret until several staff at the archdiocese continued to show flu-like symptoms.

The deadly virus first claimed the life of Fr Pascal Betunga Rukooko, the former Episcopal Vicar (bishop assigned to the pastoral supervision of a part of a Roman Catholic diocese) for Bushenyi.

Fr Betunga was laid to rest at Nyamitanga Cathedral in Mbarara this past Friday,

In a public announcement, Archbishop Lambert Bainomugisha, said a small number of mourners was allowed at the funeral ceremony to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

A day after Fr Betunga’s burial, Fr Karenzi of Mbarara Archdiocese also succumbed to COVID-19. Fr Karenzi will be laid to rest today.

Fr Felix Tumuhaise of the same archdiocese is said be fighting for his life at Nsambya hospital over COVID-19.

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Several staff at the archdiocese have since been told to go into self-isolation as the virus spreads at the cathedral.

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Fr Betungura said measures have been put in place for extra caution.

He said Fr Karenzi’s burial will be conducted under strict adherence to Standard Operating Procedures provided by the Ministry of Health.

“St. Kagwa Parish community, including the parish church where the late has been living and working, will be closed from the public for two weeks. The priests and other residents will be in self-isolation for that period,” said Betungura.

“Christians are advised to use the neighbouring parishes and churches for sacraments and other services.”

It was decided that offices at Nyamitanga hill (Archbishop, administration and parish) will be closed from the public for one week. The Cathedral however will remain open for liturgical services.

“We continue appeal to the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Mbarara and people of good will to strictly adhere to the provided guidelines in order to prevent spread of Covid 19,” said Betungura, adding, “We appreciate your prayers and support during these trying moments. Let us trust in God our ultimate protector as St. Paul advises us; whether we live or die we do it for Christ.”

Coronavirus has so far killed 201 people in Uganda since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier this year.

President Museveni had refused to open churches to prevent the spread of the virus but relented under pressure from religious leaders who said they would enforce compliance to safe practices.

According to the second round of the Uganda High-Frequency Phone Survey on COVID-19 (UHFPS) conducted in July/August 2020 by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), majority of Ugandans have abandoned the safe practices in preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

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