Poor people are given presents for the Tet festival at Hoang Mai Church in Ho Chi Minh City on Feb. 6. (Photo: UCA News)
Vietnam's prime minister has asked officials to enforce stringent measures including banning religious and cultural festivals to contain the new coronavirus outbreak caused by the more contagious British variant.
On Feb. 8, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the new epicenters of the outbreak in the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City show that Covid-19 poses a high risk of spreading fast.
He ordered government and health officials in the two cities to urgently localize, isolate, trace and offer mass testing to suspected cases to stop community transmission.
He asked the two cities’ chairpersons to decide within their competence to impose quarantine regulations and social distancing in coronavirus-hit places.
Chairpersons of other cities and provinces across the country are ordered to demand local people abide by five anti-Covid-19 measures — wearing face masks, cleaning facilities, keeping proper distance from other people, avoiding gatherings and giving health declarations. Those who violate the preventive measures will be heavily fined.
People are asked to restrict their travel to a minimum during the upcoming Tet festival, which starts on Feb. 10, and limit attendances at funerals, weddings, year-end ceremonies, festivals and religious services.
All cities and provinces have had to call off firework displays welcoming the lunar new year and prepare good resources and facilities for a worst-case scenario.
The Center for Disease Control in Ho Chi Minh City reported 25 new infections on Feb. 8, all linked with the epicenter of Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong ordered all cultural performances, sports, entertainment, discotheques, beer clubs, massage parlors, karaoke bars, cinemas and other non-essential services to be closed down from noon on Feb. 9.
He said all religious services and activities with more than 20 attendees at worship places are also canceled to stem the contagion.
The southern city has 31 community infections and has quarantined 2,750 people at centers and 720 others at home. It also isolated 13 places in eight out of its 24 districts.
On Feb. 9, Father Peter Kieu Cong Tung, chancellor of Ho Chi Minh City Archbishop’s House, called on Catholics to strictly obey the instructions and preventive measures of the city authorities “to ensure the community’s health safety, and cooperate with all people to fight against the pandemic.”
Father Tung encouraged the faithful to attend daily online Masses aired from Notre Dame Cathedral and pray for the world to escape the coronavirus soon.
Maria Nguyen Hong Hanh from Hanh Thong Tay Parish in the city said her family had decided not to return to her home province of Ninh Thuan to celebrate the Tet festival due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is the first time we have canceled all our planned Tet holidays to contain the deadly coronavirus. We pray hard to God to end the pandemic soon and for people to return to normal life,” she said.
Venerable Thich Thien Quy, secretary of the Buddhist Management in Ho Chi Minh City, asked local temples to move their religious services online and those from Covid-19-hit areas to make health declarations.
He said Buddhists should wear face masks, wash their hands and not spread fake information on the coronavirus outbreak. Monks and nuns should restrict their community contacts and travel out of their places so as to protect their health and stop community transmissions.
The Health Ministry reported 470 community transmissions since the first new infections caused by the more contagious British variant of the coronavirus were detected in the two northern provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh on Jan. 27 and spread to 12 provinces and cities.
As of Feb. 9, the Southeast Asian country had reported 2,053 Covid-19 cases including 1,163 locally transmitted infections. Among them, 543 cases are under treatment and 35 people have died.