Vietnamese priest serves villagers quarantined for coronavirus

Teachers wear protective masks while attending an online study training course during the coronavirus outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 15, 2020. CNS photo/Kham, Reuters.

HANOI, Vietnam (CNS) — A Vietnamese priest who offers voluntary services to villagers quarantined for the coronavirus has called on people to respect and give medical supplies to them.

Ucanews.com reported Father Joseph Hoang Trong Huu, 35, has provided pastoral and health services in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province since Feb. 16. The government sealed off the 10,600-member commune for 20 days Feb. 13 due to fears over the spread of the COVID-19 strain.

The rural commune, 27 miles from Hanoi, had five coronavirus patients as of Feb. 19, ucanews.com reported.

Father Francis Xavier Nguyen Duc Dai told ucanews.com that Father Huu, who was ordained last June, had taken soap, antiseptic lotion, face masks and medicine to villagers.

Father Huu, who has health skills, said on Facebook that local people protect their families and community from the deadly virus by wearing masks and washing their hands. They still work on farms and keep their daily activities as normal.

He said health workers offer health instructions, supplies and basic information on the virus to families. The priest said although everyone fears the coronavirus, people still visit churches and pray.

“I plan to place the Eucharist on church altars so that people can adore and seek divine hope,” he said.

Father Huu called on people from other places to pray for, give encouragement and offer medical supplies to health workers, patients and people suffering from physical and mental pain. He said people should sympathize, share and journey with quarantined people rather than keeping away from them.

Vietnam has quarantined thousands of Vietnamese citizens returning from China at military camps and temporary facilities. The northern province of Vinh Phuc has confirmed 11 of the 16 infection cases in Vietnam, including a 3-month-old baby. The virus came to the province after eight female workers returned from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, Jan. 17.

COVID-19 has killed more than 2,000 people and infected more than 75,000, mostly in mainland China. More than 14,000 infected people have recovered.

Lenten observance will start on Feb. 26, Ash Wednesday, with the traditional ritual of Catholics having their foreheads marked with ash as a sign of penance. But in Hong Kong, church officials announced the suspension of public Masses on Sundays and weekdays for two weeks, including Ash Wednesday.

In the Philippines, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, vice president of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said churches will not cancel Masses and Lenten rituals, but instead will “implement precautionary measures.” He said that as a precautionary measure, ashes may just be sprinkled on the head of Catholics instead of marking the forehead, ucanews.com reported.

Some Catholic priests in Africa called on their government to evacuate students trapped in Wuhan. But some governments, like Kenya, said the students are better off remaining where they are. Earlier in February, Nigeria said it would not evacuate its nationals or restrict Chinese entry.

“I think the governments have a moral obligation over their citizens. They are responsible for their safety and security. They should take the necessary risks and bring the students back home,” Father Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of Kenya’s Mombasa Archdiocese, told Catholic News Service.

An estimated 4,600 students from African countries are residing in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.