The Prior General's 2nd communiqué
Rome 23 March 2020
COVID – 19 (2)
To all the Brothers
and Co-workers, members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
It has been a week since I last wrote to you, and now I would like to update you on the situation in the Order’s Houses regarding the coronavirus pandemic, which is continuing to spread and increasingly affect more countries around the world.
You already know from the media how it is spreading to more places and affecting more people. The epicentre at the moment is still Europe, where virtually every country is affected and has adopted increasingly restrictive measures. Italy and Spain, followed by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, are the countries with the largest number of sick and the highest death toll, especially the first two countries where the sick and the dead are reaching absolutely unforeseeable numbers, and what is worse, no-one can be certain when they will begin falling and be brought under control. In some places, the health care systems have reached breaking point, making everything more difficult.
Outside Europe, the cases are on the increase in the United States and also in Canada, and almost all the Latin American and Caribbean countries are introducing tough preventive measures because they are now having to deal with a few outbreaks there.
In Asia, the numbers seem to be being brought under control in China and even South Korea, although they are still imposing very restrictive measures. Elsewhere in Asia, Australia and the Pacific, restrictive measures have also been introduced because the virus has also reached them.
This pandemic is also unfortunately reaching Africa, and appeals are being made for restrictive measures to be imposed in every country to prevent the spread, because of the additional difficulties that may arise. Many countries have already taken action, and we hope that they can contain it.
As for the Centres and Houses of the Order, according to the information that has been sent to us so far, I can tell you the following:No Brothers or Co-workers have been infected in the Houses of the Order, except for the following:
Italy: For the moment no Brothers have been infected, but a few Co-workers in the Lombardy-Veneto and in Tiber Island Hospital have fallen sick. At the moment, the biggest worry is in Northern Italy, where the health services are reaching breaking point. Our House at Erba has been hit the most severely, while the situation is better elsewhere.
Spain: This is where we are most seriously affected. For the moment, one 97-year-old Brother has died of Coronavirus and 9 Brothers of the three Provinces and one Sister who serves in one of our Centres have also been infected, but at the moment they are well and do not need to be admitted to hospital, and several are asymptomatic. Among our Co-workers, around 100 have tested positive for Covid-19. Madrid remains the most critical place, followed by Catalonia and the Basque Country. Our Centres are working very hard in coordination with the Authorities, and several Centres are treating coronavirus patients.
Austria: The situation is under better control than in the other two countries, but at 19 March at least six Co-workers had been infected.
It should also be borne in mind that the infected Brothers and Collaborators have also made it necessary for a significant number of other people to be placed in quarantine or isolation.
I ask all of us to join in prayer with the whole Church and the entire Hospitaller Family of St John of God to pray for all the sick and everyone affected by the virus, and especially for all the members of our Family, Brothers and Co-workers, who have been infected.
On behalf of the whole Order, I would like to thank all the Brothers and Co-workers who are doing their very best to assist the sick and their families in fighting this pandemic. We are very proud of you, because once again you are making the charism and mission of Hospitality shine bright, beyond any speeches and words: with your commitment, often pushed to extremes, with your smile when you do not feel like smiling, with your continued search for resources, as good Samaritans, as new John of Gods, increasing in number for the sake of the suffering, the fearful, terrified elderly people and apprehensive young men and women. For the sick, you are the Archangel Raphael bringing them comfort, the love of God, tenderness and humanity. We thank you for all this. And this is why you deserve all the applause and praise that people are giving professionals in many countries and you also show us that our Lord does not forget us and that we therefore have good grounds for hope and trust that this battle will be won.
Some countries are still free of the virus, or it has affected them very little. I urge all of you, Brothers and Co-workers, if you have not already done so, to put in place all the necessary preventive measures in the Centres and in the Communities. This pandemic is getting more virulent than anyone imagined, and we still have no idea how far it is going to develop. Please take all the the measures suggested by the authorities and those who, drawing on their own past experience, know how necessary they are. I am especially thinking of the countries in Africa, which have experienced Ebola. Get going, and adopt every measure and protocol, learning from that bitter experience.
We are continuing through Lent as we approach Easter. Let us live through this liturgical season with all the pain and sadness of the suffering which the pandemic is bringing with it, but with hope in the Lord of Life and with the confidence that, with our Lord’s help, we shall overcome.
I continue to ask the Provincials and Local Superiors to adopt all the necessary measures in the Provinces and in each Community to avoid contagion, avoiding any Community meetings of any kind if necessary.
I thank the Provincial Superiors for the information you are sending us on how this pandemic is affecting each Province. Please continue to report back to us so that we can keep the whole Order informed, and above all, so that we can be closer to you.
These are harrowing times for all, and things even seem to be getting worse. With all due precautions and in compliance with all the rules and standards, taking care of ourselves as we should, it is also the time for Hospitality, for making ourselves available, for setting an example, as our Religious forebears have done. Of them I would like especially to recall St John Grande, who in 1600 died in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) after catching the plague, taking hospitality to its most extreme lengths, just as our Brothers did when they recently died as a result of Ebola.
Let us all pray for each other and all for the world, especially for those who are suffering the most from this pandemic.
Brother Jesús Etayo
To all the Brothers and Co-workers, and Members of the Hospitaller Family of St. John of God
I send you all my very best wishes, trusting that you are in the best of health, to brief you on with the situation that is creating the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the Houses of the Order.
As you know, this pandemic started in China, and we received the first news of it at the end of December last year. But it then spread very rapidly to other countries, such as South Korea and Iran and then to Europe, which they are now calling the epicentre of the pandemic. But, albeit to a much lesser degree, it is gradually spreading to other countries in Oceania, America and Africa. You can follow the developments in the media. The pandemic is already causing significant numbers of people to become infected and die.
As far as the Order is concerned, from what we know today, the situation is as follows,
China: None of the Brothers in our only Community in Yanji have been affected. However, we have not heard any news for quite a few days from Brother Joseph Han, a Chinese scholastic, who was locked down in Beijing in the first few days of February. The Superior of Yanji is doing his best to contact him, but so far with no success.
South Korea: The pandemic has produced a significant number of cases, but not among any of the Brothers, and from what we have been told, neither have any of our Co-workers been affected.
Italy: The situation here is very complicated. At the moment, no Brothers have been affected, but some of our Co-workers have fallen ill, as well some guests in some of our Centres. The situation is very difficult especially in Northern Italy, which means the Lombardy-Veneto Province, and there is a risk that the healthcare system may prove unable to cope. For the time being, in Rome and in the Rome Province, and in Central and Southern Italy, things are somewhat better, although a significant increase in cases is expected in the next few days. The government has appealed to everyone to stay at home. At the Curia General we are all well, and virtually all our Co-workers are now working from home. Likewise, many other Co-workers in our Centres are able to work from home, either because of the type of work they do, or because they are in statutory lockdown.
Spain: The situation has become more complicated in the past few days and is on track to follow what has occurred in Italy. At the moment, there is one Brother from the Ciempozuelos Community who has tested positive, but is well, and is following the medical protocols. But a good number of Co-workers have been affected or have self-quarantined, especially in some Centres in Madrid and Barcelona, two of the most contagious hotspots in Spain.
Other countries in Europe: The contagion is spreading unevenly, but in virtually every country it is rising, especially in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. At the moment we have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
United States and Canada: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of Order.
Oceania: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
Latin America and the Caribbean: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
Africa: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region: We have no news of anyone affected in the Houses of the Order.
This is all the information about the Coronavirus pandemic that we can give you at this difficult time. As with every pandemic, the figures are very provisional and liable to change very quickly. I urge you all to comply strictly with all the rules and protocols laid down in every country to protect everyone from the virus.
I also ask all the Provincial Superiors, where they deem it appropriate and necessary, to issue clear instructions to the Houses and the Brothers and Communities, to prevent the contagion from spreading in both directions: to avoid being infected and infecting others. This could mean relieving the Brothers of certain activities, such as holding community and other meetings. In large Communities, the Brothers may only be dispensed from attending community prayers and celebrating the Eucharist in common where it is necessary.
These are very difficult times, at least in the places where the pandemic is doing its worst. As Brothers of St. John of God, our Centres must be available and prepared as well as possible to help and to work with society to combat this pandemic. Brothers who are unable to care for others personally must intensify their personal and if possible community prayer, praying that Our Lord will protect the sick and the dying, through the intercession of St. John of God, and for all the healthcare and other professionals who are tirelessly working to care for the sick.
I ask all of you, Brothers and Co-workers, to take good care of yourselves by following the instructions in each case. This applies especially to the older Brothers and those at risk, especially in the worst affected regions. You must remain indoors and follow the directions of your Superiors, even when this may be irksome.
I ask all the Provincial Superiors to keep us regularly briefed on the situation in their Provinces to acquaint us with the state of the Order in this pandemic and enable us to report back to the whole Order.
These are hard times for the whole world, but they are also occasions to bring out what we do best: showing hospitality, generosity, collaboration and dedication. Above all, living through them by showing concern, but also with faith and hope in Our Lord. He is sharing our suffering, and on Him we must pin all our trust and our hope, so that we can overcome these moments, which the experts unfortunately predict will continue for some time to come.
Let us pray for each other and for the whole world, especially for those who are suffering most acutely from this pandemic.
With my fraternal best wishes.
Brother Jesús Etayo