Caritas organisations in Asia are offering support and prayers to people infected with and affected by the COVID19 (Coronavirus).
COVID19 – more commonly known as Coronavirus – has infected tens of thousands of people in almost 30 countries and is thought to have killed over 1,300 people in mainland China. There is currently no cure for the potentially deadly flu-like virus which emerged in late 2019.
“Today we are confronted with another form of emergency situation which is neither man-made nor natural, but rather an epidemic that we must face in calmness. We are ready to help the victims concerned and we are united in prayer with all those affected,” says Aloysius John, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis.
Caritas Hong Kong has been distributing surgical masks to people in need and have stepped up checks on staff and the people they serve, while increasing the frequency of cleaning of public areas. They are urging donations of more masks because supplies are running out quickly. There have been 49 confirmed cases in Hong Kong so far.
Caritas has been assessing the needs of the vulnerable population by phone and has also set up street kiosks to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of the virus. It is also providing food assistance, hand sanitiser and hygiene products to needy families and vulnerable people. People in low-paid jobs have been asked to cut their hours or to stay home without pay, so support is vital for them.
Fr Joseph Yim, chief executive of Caritas Hong Kong, says, “To cope with the situation, we have implemented some special measures. Firstly, we have a quarantine arrangement for staff who have travelled to China and returned to Hong Kong. Non-urgent events and meetings had been cancelled to avoid people crowding together. Moreover, we have tried our best to source protective equipment (e.g face masks, hand sanitiser, protective gowns) and to provide a hygienic environment for all staff and the people we serve. Notwithstanding all the challenges, we are still doing well here in Hong Kong.”
“Due to the strong demand for protective equipment like surgical masks, hand sanitiser, protective clothing, there was a shortage of supply, thus prices have soared. Therefore, sponsorship both in cash and in kind would be a great support to us.”
As schools are closed in Hong Kong, Caritas has organised volunteers to give online homework support and is also promoting different educational platforms to promote autonomous learning among students.
Caritas Macau says, “This is a time for calm, humanity and unity for all countries. We pray for all medical workers helping the patients in the front-line, and all those people working in the prevention of the virus. To those infected by the virus, we also pray for their early recovery.”
Caritas is supporting government efforts to prevent the virus with particular focus on homes for the elderly and rehabilitation centres. They are collecting surgical masks and passing them on to the government for distribution. They have also opened a delivery channel to send masks to Hong Kong. There are currently 10 confirmed cases in Macau.
It is also providing temporary accommodation to migrant workers who travel across the border to mainland China and continuing to support the most vulnerable and people who live alone by providing meals.
Caritas Myanmar (Karuna Mission Social Solidarity) has ramped up efforts to protect internally displaced people in camps in Kachin state, which is on the border with China. There are no infections so far, but Caritas is monitoring the situation closely.
“We are especially training people to take precautions in terms of hygiene and sanitation, like washing their hands frequently and wearing protective masks,” says Win Tun Kyi, the director of Caritas Myanmar.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has send hundreds of thousands of protective face masks to Hubei, Zhejiand and Fujian provinces to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Caritas Sri Lanka has offered up a special Mass for those affected by COVID19 and they provided the below reflection:
“The flow of life is a mystery to everyone but God. Surrendering ourselves to His will allows us to navigate unspeakable, and seemingly endless pain.
When God heals someone, He is accepting the suffering of Christ in place of our suffering. “By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)