French nun Sister Andrée tested positive in her retirement home in Toulon but had no symptoms
The Guardian- Kim Willsher in Paris
Sister Andrée will celebrate her birthday on Thursday. Photograph: Gérard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
A French nun who is Europe’s oldest person has recovered from Covid-19 after it swept through a nursing home in the south of France, and will celebrate her 117th birthday this week.
Sister Andrée, born Lucile Randon in 1904, tested positive for the coronavirus last month at the Sainte-Catherine Labouré home near Toulon where 81 of the 88 residents contracted the virus – 10 of whom died.
The nun, who will celebrate her 117th birthday on Thursday, was reported to have suffered no Covid-19 symptoms but remained confined to her room, unable to mix with other residents or attend mass. Nursing home staff told reporters her only complaint had been the “solitude”.
She told Var-Matin newspaper: “I didn’t even realise I had it.”
David Tavella, a spokesperson for the nursing home, told the newspaper that the nun had shown no fear of the virus.
“She didn’t ask me about her health but about her routine. She wanted to know for example if the meal and bed times were going to change. She showed no fear of the illness, in fact she was more worried about the other residents,” Tavella said.
Asked if she was scared to have Covid, the nun told France’s BFM television: “No, I wasn’t scared because I wasn’t scared to die … I’m happy to be with you, but I would wish to be somewhere else – join my big brother and my grandfather and my grandmother.”
Tavella said Andrée was looking forward to celebrating her birthday on Thursday – with a smaller group of residents than usual because of the coronavirus infection risk. “She has been very lucky,” he added.
Andrée, who is blind and in a wheelchair, worked as a governor and tutor before entering a convent in 1944, aged 40. She has been in nursing homes since 1979 and in the Toulon home since 2009.
The nun, who was born on 11 February 1904, is the world’s second-oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) world supercentenarian rankings list. The oldest person is Japan’s Kane Tanaka, who turned 118 on 2 January. All 20 of the oldest people in the GRG list are all female.
Last year, Andrée said she had no idea how she had lived so long. “I’ve no idea what the secret is. Only God can answer that question,” she told French radio. “I’ve had plenty of unhappiness in life and during the 1914-1918 war when I was a child, I suffered like everyone else.”