A church is the center of an outbreak in Vietnam’s largest city.

For greater than 20 years, the husband and spouse had been stalwarts of their evangelical group in southern Vietnam: pastors of a small Protestant church the place they distributed meals and clothes to the needy of Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, the couple are pariahs. They have been blamed by the authorities for a major coronavirus outbreak, are dealing with a prison investigation and have been held accountable on social media for a lockdown in their neighborhood and a ban on non secular providers nationwide.

The couple, Phuong Van Tan and Vo Xuan Loan, who’re hospitalized with Covid-19, are accused of permitting parishioners to wish collectively with out sporting masks, a violation of coronavirus protocols that officers say resulted in an outbreak in May linked to greater than 200 instances.

Health officers imagine that the outbreak began with Ms. Loan, who traveled to Hanoi, the capital, in late April and started experiencing signs about two weeks later. They contend that churchgoers gathered in shut quarters for his or her providers, didn’t put on masks and didn’t report their sicknesses.

“These days, in our hospital beds, we grieve both physically and mentally about what is going on,” Mr. Tan, 60, wrote in a Facebook put up, in which he requested for forgiveness. “On behalf of the entire church, my wife and I, as pastors, would like to sincerely apologize to all the community.”

Ms. Loan, 65, contradicted the official account of her sickness. She believes that she contracted the virus after getting back from Hanoi and was not the supply of the cluster. She additionally denied that parishioners had gathered with out sporting masks.

“I am the one who always asked people from my church to wear a mask,” she stated by telephone from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, the place she is being handled. “I brought masks to all the people of the church and to people in the community.”

Vietnam stored the coronavirus at bay for greater than a yr. But the church cluster, outbreaks at factories in the nation’s north and the emergence of a troubling new variant all counsel that the nation’s luck is perhaps operating out as the virus resurges in components of Southeast Asia. More than half of Vietnam’s 7,800 cases have occurred in the previous month.

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