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Vietnam restricts religious services after Covid-19 surge

Cluster in Ho Chi Minh City is linked to Christian group Revival Ekklesia Mission

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

Published: May 29, 2021 06:22 AM GMT

Updated: May 29, 2021 10:31 AM GMT

Vietnam restricts religious services after Covid-19 surge

A Mater Unitatis sister offers food to a family from an isolated area in Vietnam's Bac Giang province on May 27. (Photo courtesy of Mater Unitatis)

Religious groups in Vietnam have been urged to limit their religious activities to contain the coronavirus outbreak after tens of followers of a Christian group tested positive for Covid-19.

The Center for Disease Control based in Ho Chi Minh City confirmed 63 domestic coronavirus cases during the past three days. All infections are linked to Revival Ekklesia Mission, a Christian group based in Go Vap district.

The cluster was detected after a woman visited a hospital with a respiratory problem on May 26.

The religious sect, which was approved by the government in 2006, has one 50-square-meter worship place and 38 members, of whom 29 have tested positive for Covid-19, according to state-run media.

Health authorities said the source of the infections might be two of the Christian sect's members.

One of them is the 65-year-old wife of the pastor who heads the sect as she started to have respiratory problems on May 13 after she flew to Hanoi on April 23 and returned six days later. The woman, who is accused of giving no health declaration to authorities, has been given treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Thang said those who fail to obey coronavirus measures would be punished according to the law

Health authorities are isolating specific areas and conducting large-scale contact tracing. They are providing medical tests for some 50,000 residents surrounding the Christian group's headquarters for contact tracing and preventing the outbreak. Some local churches are being used as medical checkup points.

The People's Committee in the city has ordered religious organizations to suspend all religious services and activities from May 28 until further notice.

Local people are asked not to gather at public places and not to go out if not necessary.

On May 27, Vu Chien Thang, deputy minister of home affairs, urged authorities to examine religious places across the country and asked religious leaders to stop religious activities.

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Thang said those who fail to obey coronavirus measures would be punished according to the law.

Noting that some religious organizations plan to hold big ceremonies, the former head of the government committee for religious affairs warned that if they do not practice social distancing and move to online services, Vietnam will face a high risk of local infection.   

Father Peter Kieu Cong Tung, chancellor of Ho Chi Minh City Archbishop's House, said that local churches started to suspend religious activities on May 22. Catholics are free of weekend Masses but should attend online services.

Father Tung also announced that Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang had decided to cancel a regular training course and monthly retreat of local clergy due to be held on June 7-9 and a priestly ordination for 19 deacons planned for June 11.

He said the hard time is an opportunity for people to do charitable deeds according to the Christian spirit by working with other people to provide basic materials, face masks, disinfectants and other medical equipment to isolated places and areas badly affected by Covid-19.

Vietnam has reported a total of 6,713 confirmed Covid-19 cases including 3,770 patients under treatment and 47 deaths.

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