UCA News


Vietnamese Catholics respond to coronavirus outbreak

Clerics pray for the infected and dispense medical advice while churches hand out free face masks at Masses

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Updated: February 03, 2020 04:28 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Vietnamese Catholics respond to coronavirus outbreak

Children wearing masks attend Mass at My Hoa Church in Ho Chi Minh City on Feb. 2. (UCA News photo)

Share this article :
Catholics in Vietnam have taken measures to prevent the novel coronavirus outbreak from spreading across the country.

On Feb. 1 Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc declared the serious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus an epidemic in the country.

Prime Minister Phuc said the disease had been reported in three provinces — Khanh Hoa, Thanh Hoa and Vinh Phuc.

He also set up a steering committee, led by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, to direct all public agencies to control and contain the spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Feb. 2 that the country’s seven virus-infected patients included two Chinese visitors since the first case of the virus was reported on Jan. 23.

The latest infection is a 73-year-old Vietnamese-American man who is being treated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City. The patient was in transit for two hours in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, on Jan. 15 before flying to Vietnam.

Vietnam Airlines announced on Feb. 1 that it was suspending all flights to and from destinations in China to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It will suspend flights between Hanoi and Hong Kong and Macau from Feb. 5.

On Jan. 31 the government suspended all celebrations of the spring festival and urged people to wear face masks in public places.

Over 60 universities and colleges across the country announced they will be closed this week to contain the outbreak. In addition, 23 cities and provinces nationwide will close all their nurseries and high schools.

On Feb. 2, Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Kham, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, called on the faithful to pray for scientists to speedily find a cure for the disease.

They were urged “to pray to God to heal those who have been infected and for other people not to contract the epidemic,” Bishop Kham said in an announcement.

The bishop of My Tho offered some prevention measures by asking Catholics to receive the Eucharist by hand and requesting those who have a fever and cough not to attend services. He also asked church members to curtail gatherings for festivals and pilgrimages until the epidemic is under control.

Father Francis Xavier Dau Nguyen Hoang Linh, pastor of Nam Hoa parish with 4,000 members in Ho Chi Minh City, said his parish hands out free face masks to churchgoers at weekend Masses.

Father Linh, 55, said he taught them how to maintain personal hygiene and protect their community from the coronavirus.

Nguyen Thi My Phuong, a pharmacist, said there is a severe shortage of medical supplies, especially face masks which now fetch much higher prices. A box of 50 which previously sold for 50,000 dong (US$2.16) now retails at 120,000 to 150,000 dong.

Many churches have asked attendees to wear masks to weekend Masses while priests were seen wearing masks to celebrate Masses.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Da Nang, has been closed to visitors since Jan. 26. The Gothic-style pink cathedral with a weathercock-topped steeple said in a statement that it will post notice on its reopening as soon as the epidemic has been contained.

Some 12,000 Chinese tourists reportedly visited the city during the Lunar New Year starting on Jan. 25.

The 96-year-old cathedral also asked local Catholics to closely monitor the epidemic situation and take appropriate self-protection.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."