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06/04/2021 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – On May 26, a couple who attended a meeting place of the Revival Ekklesia Mission (REM) went to the Gia Dinh General Hospital because they felt ill. The couple tested positive for COVID-19, and Vietnam’s tracing system identified 211 other positive cases connected to REM, an independent, charismatic house-church organization headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to REM Leader Rev. Vo Xuan Loan, the church had primarily gone online since authorities imposed a ban on meetings of more than 20 people for the last two weeks in May. Only seven people had been present at the meeting where the couple allegedly contracted COVID-19.

However, according to the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control, nearly 200,000 residents in 16 districts of the city who contracted COVID-19 were “associated with this cluster.”

 According to Morning Star News, on May 30, the REM’s registration was temporarily suspended, and on June 1, local police announced that the group was under criminal investigation for spreading COVID-19. Authorities also threatened REM with permanent erasure.

Ho Chi Minh City was locked down due to a surge in cases, and all incoming foreign flights are suspended. Authorities in Hanoi tested people at REM’s two Hanoi branches, and none tested positive. However, all religious gatherings in the capital have been shut down.

Even though the REM hotspot did not violate limits on gatherings, it appears to have provided officials an opportunity to crack down on house churches. According to Morning Star News, “Christians in Ho Chi Minh City fear that authorities are using the REM outbreak as a reason to sternly cautious religious bodies and leaders to follow COVID-19 restrictions, but with extra severity towards house churches.”

The leader of REM, Rev. Loan, wrote an open letter to apologize while hospitalized with COVID-19 to all affected by the outbreak that began at the house church. He also offered to reimburse everyone who suffered economic loss in connection with the REM COVID-19 spread.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].