Sikkim: more than 300 monks tested Covid-19 positive
In the past few days Sikkim has been reporting positive cases of monks in various monasteries in and around Gangtok, total of 311 monks has been tested positive for Covid-19 at five different monasteries in past few days. These include 122 from Rumtek Monastery, 122 from Nyingma Institute in Martam, 61 from Gonjong Monastery and five from Nor Monastery, both in Gangtok, and two cases from Lingdum Monastery.
On May 23, 2021, when 61 monks from the Gonjong Monastery were tested positive, following which as per Norgay Dawa Bhutia, Ecclesiastical Department Secretary the head monk of the monastery had been capitulated with the Covid-19 on May 19 and had hidden his illness
“The head monk in Gonjong Monastery had hidden his illness for days, he had two other monks taking care of him. He eventually succumbed to Covid-19 within 30 minutes of reaching the STNM Hospital on May 19. Now, these two monks who were taking care of him were getting food for him, prepared from the kitchen meant for everyone else. Even if it was different, these two monks were coming out and meeting others in the monastery. Monasteries are full of students of monastic learning SHEDA along with monks, who are under the monastery or the Rinpoche. There is a large congregation with SHEDA also in place and some of these monks being housed for life or many years, they do not have the option of going back to their homes. Schools were definitely shut as per the ruling of the state government, but there are still many monks in a small premise, many of whom sleep in dormitories, use the common kitchen and toilet, so that could be the reason for the spread” Norgay Dawa Bhutia added
Similarly, in the Dharma Chakra centre 7 have tested positive from 79 tests on May 23. “They have a medical team in place, but also they are backed well by their trust and the donations. So, for rations they rely on trust, there has been no situation that they need rations throughout the pandemic since last year. In terms of monks, they do have a very high number of monks in the old and new monastery”, informed Norgay Dawa Bhutia.
Similarly on May 27, the Lingdam Monastry reported 122 monks tested positive, it was speculated that the mutual exchange of monks from the nearby rumtek monastery as one of the reasons for the spread of the virus
After which on May 28 the numbers of positive cases at Rumtek monastery, Dharma Chakra centre increased, 85 new cases of monks were added to the list
In observance of the rising cases in the states, in particular rhe substantial esca;ation of covid positive test evidenced in the few monasteries and SHEDA the department of ecclesiastical issued a notification which advised all monasteries ro operate under the guidelines given by the Health department.
Further the notification also mentioned that “the religious institute may prepare their own SOPs taking into account their Curriculum”
At present the monks are under the health department and the monastery has set up its own covid care centre under supervision of the health department, Government of Sikkim
In Lingdam Nyingmapa Institute Covid-19 care centre total of 122 monks have been admitted, in Rumtek Dharma chakra centre 86 monks have been admitted likewise other 64 monks from other monasteries have been kept at Saramsa Covid-19 care centre.