The struggle to beat coronavirus continues here – and it is not easy. High infection rates continue.
Rondônia, a state roughly six times the size of Ireland, has had over 40,000 infections with deaths to date nearing 900. Ji-Paraná, the town where I am one of two priests in the cathedral parish, has had over 1,000 infections, rising daily by between 10 and 40 cases. The death toll so far stands at 21.
The country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has caused all sorts of confusion, with mixed messages in relation to wearing a mask and regarding supposed remedies, and he has offered no leadership. Now averaging over 1,000 deaths daily for a number of weeks, Brazil as a whole has seen some levelling off of – but no substantial decrease in – its very high numbers. Because of those numbers, the country has become an international trial site for possible vaccines produced elsewhere e.g. in the UK.
We now have public Masses again. The main part of the cathedral had a capacity of 600 but numbers are now limited to 200. At a recent Saturday evening Mass, I had about 40 in attendance; numbers on Sunday were a little higher. From mid-August, visits to rural communities, which typically range in size from 10 to 30 families, are again possible. With alcohol gel, face masks and plastic shields, we take sensible precautions. In the town most commerce is again open, albeit with some restrictions.
Our diocese, which has 26 parishes, has been without a bishop for 14 months. But we soldier on!
From near Cullen in Co. Tipperary, Fr. John was first appointed to Brazil in 1966, the year after his ordination. He had already spent 3 years as a seminarian in Trinidad and would later complete his M.Sc. in New York. He returned to Ji-Paraná town in 2018, some 40 years after first serving there.+