Free State church gathering: elderly church leader succumbs to Covid-19

Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi. Picture: News24
Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi. Picture: News24

An elderly church leader who attended a Free State prayer meeting with five tourists who later tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, has died from complications of the virus – the third person to succumb to the virus contracted at the gathering.

The Free State department of health has tracked down and investigated more than 1 600 people who attended the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast or those who were in contact with some of the congregates who contracted the virus at the Global Reconciliation Church event on March 10-11.

On Monday John Hlangeni (85), a leader at the church, became the third South African to die from complications of the virus at the Pelenomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.

His wife is also ill and is being treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

On Wednesday, the department of health was forced to close the Duduza Clinic in Ekurhuleni on the East Rand after one of the nurses tested positive for the virus.

She had also attended the prayer meeting.

But the man does not believe his friend contracted the disease from the tourists. He only became ill on March 29, 17 days after he had transported them.

Volksblad yesterday reported that a 54-year-old guesthouse owner, who was also in attendance and accommodated and transported the five overseas tourists, also died from Covid-19-like symptoms.

A friend of the deceased said the cause of his death was recorded as “lung embolism [blood clot] and Covid-19.”

But the man does not believe his friend contracted the disease from the tourists. He only became ill on March 29, 17 days after he had transported them.

By Friday afternoon, the Free State had 84 cases of Covid-19. The latest official figures from government showed that 67 people who attended the meeting tested positive.

Read: Bloemfontein church gathering: 67 more people test positive for Covid-19

The department of health believes that those who tested positive had contact with at least 1 600 other people.

Mondli Mvambi, Free State health spokesperson, this week confirmed that officials from the department had traced the contact people to Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape.

It’s understood that about 895 people attended the prayer meeting over three days, but many of them went home throughout the meeting.

This made it hard for the department to determine the total number of people who had attended the gathering.

Three church leaders, who have since tested positive, led the church service on the Sunday after the prayer gathering.

In addition to the three, lay preacher Angus Buchan and his wife Jill as well as the African Christian Democratic Party leader, the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe and his deputy Steve Swart, also tested positive after attending the gathering.

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