Religious study retreat at centre of COVID-19 cluster

4
  • National
  • NSW
  • Coronavirus pandemic

For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.

By Kate Aubusson and Natassia Chrysanthos

August 11, 2020 — 11.45pm

About Religious
Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or “some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life”. Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities and/or saints), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. About 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.

Religious study retreat at centre of COVID-19 cluster

About retreat
Retreat or re-treat may refer to:

A study and prayer retreat is the suspected catalyst for a ballooning COVID-19 cluster linked to Tangara School for Girls, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian warns camps and excursions are a pandemic no-go.

Health authorities are searching for the source of a coronavirus outbreak affecting the independent Opus Dei school at Cherrybrook in Sydney’s Hills District and its close-knit community.

Religious study retreat at centre of COVID-19 cluster

Loading

Replay

The Tangara cluster grew to 17 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including 11 senior students across at least two year groups, one teacher, three household contacts and two social contacts.

More cases are expected in the coming days among the large families whose daughters are enrolled at the school, as contact tracers focus on their extra-curricular interactions.

Advertisement

Several students who tested positive for the virus SARS-CoV-2 attended a retreat co-ordinated by the Opus Dei study centre Eremeran and held at a convention centre in Bargo, approximately 90 kilometres south-west of Sydney.

A spokesman for Tangara said the school had not arranged the retreat, was not aware the study camp was going ahead and no teachers attended. Eremeran did not respond to multiple calls and requests for comment.

Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook is closed due to COVID-19 infections.

Tangara School for Girls in Cherrybrook is closed due to COVID-19 infections.Credit:Edwina Pickles

“The school continues to fully co-operate with NSW Health and follow all of their directions,” the statement said.

NSW recorded 22 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday night, including eight linked to the Tangara School.

Parramatta Public School will be closed on Wednesday after a student was diagnosed with COVID-19. Two students from nearby Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta tested positive in recent days.

Two staff members at Liverpool Hospital have been diagnosed with COVID-19. NSW Health said the risk to patients was low. One staff member wore personal protective equipment including a face mask, and the other was not working with patients when they were infectious.

One staff member is linked to an existing cluster and the source of the other case in under investigation.

Victoria recorded 331 new cases, and 19 COVID-related deaths for the second consecutive day.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Australia’s overall COVID-19 mortality rate was extremely low, with 331 deaths among 21,713 confirmed cases.

On Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said out-of-school camps and retreats should not be running while the state attempts to quash the contagion.

“Extra-curricular activities, those excursions and overnight things which you would ordinarily do, are not acceptable during a pandemic.

“Every organisation, every entity needs to abide by the COVID Safe plans because otherwise we risk having a surge in numbers and we risk having new clusters,” she said.

A spokesperson from the North Sydney Local Health District said: “Due to the concern about the virus spreading within [Tangara], NSW Health and the school agreed to close the high school for 14 days to allow for contact tracing and to reduce the risk of the virus spreading further at the school.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she expected the Tangara cluster would grow, knowing people who live in the same households as positive cases were “extremely susceptible” to catching the virus.

Following the advice of contact tracers will prove challenging for larger families as they attempt to isolate any children with COVID-19 from their siblings.

Several families with daughters at Tangara also have sons enrolled at Redfield College in Dural. Both schools are run by the Parents for Education (PARED) Foundation, a not-for-profit Catholic Opus Dei organisation.

The Tangara school community has been asked not to speak to the media and direct all questions to PARED.

One parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the school’s communication had been positive but she still did not have as much information as she would like, including the age of students who had tested positive.

Loading

Her daughter regularly attends after-school Eremeran study and religious clubs, which she said were small groups of about 10 students. She said the clubs had ceased during lockdown and remote learning, but re-commenced recently.

“We got a message from Eremeran [on August 7] when the Tangara outbreak happened, saying Eremeran would also be closed,” she said.

She was most concerned about potential cases at Redfield College, where her son attends.

“I’m worried about it spreading to the boys’ school because [of] the huge number of large families at the school. One of the boys has a sister that’s sick. The principal advised everyone [to] get tested, and a lot of the boys got tested yesterday,” she said.

Premier Berejiklian said coronavirus containment was a “daily battle in NSW”.

“We are in a state of high alert. My anxiety has not subsided in relation to what a knife-edge NSW is on, but we need to keep pulling together,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We need to keep doing the right thing, maintain our social distance and most importantly even with the mildest symptoms, stay home and get tested,” she said.

In Huskisson on the NSW South Coast the Asian restaurant Wild Ginger has closed for two weeks after two diners on holiday from Sydney tested positive for COVID-19, forcing staff into self-isolation.

Loading

Of Tuesday’s 22 new cases in NSW, 16 were locally acquired and linked to known cases, including two cases linked to previously reported cases from Batemans Bay Soldiers Club. The two new Batemans Bay cases are a student at Batemans Bay High School and a student at Batemans Bay Public School, bringing this cluster to 10 cases. The schools are closed for cleaning and contact tracing is under way.

Another new case is linked to the Thai Rock Wetherill Park cluster, bringing the cluster to 112 cases.

One new case is locally acquired and under investigation.

Four new cases were returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine, and one was acquired in Melbourne.

Dooleys Catholic Club at Lidcombe has also closed its doors after a member visited the club last weekend and has since tested positive for COVID-19.

The club is now in the process of helping NSW Health access the contact details of all employees and patrons who were on the premises between the period Friday August 7 at 5pm and Saturday August 8 at 1.30am.

A total of 13,257 tests were carried out in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

There are 117 COVID-19 cases being treated by NSW Health. Eight patients are in intensive care units and six are ventilated. Roughly 85 per cent of cases being treated are out of hospital.

with Mary Ward

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments and the numbers you need to know. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

License this article

  • Coronavirus pandemic
  • Health
  • Schools
  • Private schools
  • Gladys Berejiklian
Kate Aubusson

Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Natassia Chrysanthos

Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Loading

Advertisement