Updated: July 27, 2020 05:45 AM GMT
Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan celebrates an online Mass at Da Nang Cathedral on July 26. (Photo: UCA News)
A diocese in central Vietnam has suspended all public gatherings at religious sites after health officials detected the first locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus in three months.
The Health Ministry reported that a 57-year-old man from Da Nang city, a tourist hot spot, tested positive for Covid-19 on July 25. The ministry did not say how the man contracted the coronavirus but said he had not left the city for nearly three weeks while he looked after his grandchild at home, met neighbors and attended a wedding party.
State-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that the man was in critical condition and that specialists had flown from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Da Nang to treat him.
The ministry said health officials confirmed three other new cases the next day. Two were people aged 61 and 71 from Da Nang while the other was a 17-year-old male from Quang Ngai province who had visited a hospital in Da Nang two times.
It said the new cases broke the country’s record of having had no locally transmitted infections for 99 days. Vietnam has kept its total tally of reported infections to 420 with no deaths.
On July 26, the People’s Committee of Da Nang city instructed people to wear face masks when they go out, not to gather more than 30 people in public places and keep a distance of at least one meter from one another. Festivals, religious ceremonies, sports events and non-essential services have been suspended. Tourism activities have also been put on hold for 14 days since July 26.
Police in Da Nang arrested 31 Chinese citizens accused of illegally entering Vietnam this month.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered government officials to severely punish those illegally entering the country and those who offer them accommodation in Da Nang and Quang Nam.
He also asked authorities in bordering provinces to ensure strict control of illegal entry from China, Laos and Cambodia, impose stringent quarantine measures and carry out an aggressive testing program on them.
On July 23, the prime minister ordered the suspension of imports of wildlife “dead or alive” and declared that no one must participate in illegal poaching, buying, selling or transporting of illegal wildlife. The country is one of Asia's biggest consumers of wildlife products.
His directive followed an international outcry over the sale of wildlife, which has been cited as the source of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China.
On July 26, Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of Da Nang, which covers Da Nang and the neighboring province of Quang Nam, said local Catholics face a high risk of a repeat outbreak of the coronavirus and urged them to work closely with other people to contain the spread of the contagion.
Bishop Ngan asked priests to suspend public Masses and services at parishes and subparishes in the city starting from the afternoon of July 26 until further notice. The bishop will celebrate daily Masses streamlined via the diocese’s website.
He also canceled a gathering of catechists at the Shrine of Our Lady of Tra Kieu and a diocesan pilgrimage to the Shrine of Martyr Andrew Phu Yen (1625-44) at Phuoc Kieu Subparish where the first martyr was killed for his faith. The two events had been planned to take place on July 26.
The prelate said priests should conduct funerals at churches only with the attendance of the deceased’s close relatives.
Bishop Ngan called on Catholics to daily gather to say prayers at home, recite the rosary, attend online Masses, do charity work and pray for the pandemic to end soon.