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Vietnam imposes tough social distancing rules, launches criminal probe after Covid-19 cluster linked to Christian church

Strict social distancing rules will be enforced in Vietnam’s largest and most populous city Ho Chi Minh, starting Monday. The regulations come after a Covid-19 cluster was detected within a local Christian congregation.

Gatherings of more than two people are banned in the city’s Go Vap and Thanh Loc districts. Residents have been told to leave home only to buy groceries or medicine and in cases of an emergency. They are also allowed to travel to work at businesses that involve “essential” goods and services. The new regulations will last for two weeks.

Less restrictive rules were put in place across the rest of Ho Chi Minh, where authorities banned gatherings of 20 or more people in one place, and of 10 or more people outside workplaces, schools and hospitals. Everyone must stay two meters apart from each other in public spaces.T

The city’s top official, Nguyen Thanh Phong, said that the restrictions were imposed to contain the cluster of infections connected to the Christian group called the Revival Ekklesia Mission. According to the VnExpress news website, 126 Covid-19 patients have been linked to the cluster since Wednesday, out of which 33 have not yet been confirmed by the Health Ministry.

Police launched an investigation into the church on Sunday. The congregation is suspected of violating the law that bans “spreading dangerous infectious disease in humans,” news website Vietnamplus reported.

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Vietnamese media cited the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control as saying that worshippers had gathered in a small, poorly ventilated space and did not wear masks.

The country’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Sunday called for a “stronger and more effective offensive” against the virus.

The Health Ministry has recorded 56 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours. Overall, Vietnam has had 5,462 locally transmitted and 1,502 imported cases since the start of the pandemic.

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