A Catholic washes his hands with disinfectant on July 31 at Hoa Hung Church in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: UCA News)
Two more dioceses in southern Vietnam have stopped public Masses and services as the country’s first deaths related to Covid-19 were reported.
Two men aged 61 and 70 died on July 31 and a 68-year-old woman died on Aug. 1. All were from Da Nang city or its neighboring ancient city of Hoi An in Quang Nam province.
The victims were among 116 coronavirus cases reported since July 25 in Da Nang, where the first case was confirmed after the Southeast Asian nation had no new infections for nearly 100 days. Some 42 patients are in a serious condition.
The new wave of the pandemic has spread to three cities and three provinces in a week — Da Nang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the provinces of Dak Lak, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai.
On July 31, the People’s Committee of Hanoi chairman Nguyen Duc Chung urged health workers to give mass testing to 54,000 people who had returned from Da Nang since July 8.
He also ordered the closure of karaoke bars, bars and street food services. Restaurants and malls have to ensure social distancing of one meter among customers.
Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City, where five cases are related to the outbreak in Da Nang, closed all bars and nightclubs and banned gatherings of over 30 people to contain the spread of the virus. They asked 18,000 people who had returned from Da Nang in the past few days to have tests for Covid-19.
Father Peter Kieu Cong Tung, chancellor of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, called on priests to suspend all pastoral activities and liturgical services from July 31 until further notice. Catholics will be exempt from attending Sunday Masses during this period.
Father Tung said they can attend online services streamlined on the archdiocese’s website starting on Aug. 1. He asked priests to celebrate daily Masses to pray for the world to escape the pandemic soon, to limit participants to 30 and to follow preventive health measures and social distancing.
The priest asked those who are suffering coronavirus-like symptoms and have returned from Covid-19-hit areas to self-isolate.
Mary Tran Thi Mun from St. Martin Parish said her parish priest held Masses attended by only 10 people to pray to God to save the world from the deadly pandemic.
Mun, 74, who serves as the parish’s cashier, said the parish will call on Catholics to make donations to support those affected by social distancing measures. She said people have canceled their pilgrimages to religious sites in other places due to the coronavirus surge.
Bishop Vincent Nguyen Van Ban of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands asked parishes and subparishes in the provinces of Dak Lak and Dong Xoai to stop Masses and gatherings with over 30 people to protect community health and stem the coronavirus spread.
Earlier, Da Nang Diocese closed all churches in the city and Quang Nam province after the new surge of Covid-19 on July 25.
As of Aug. 1, Vietnam had reported 558 Covid-19 cases with 373 recoveries and three deaths.