Vatican City reports its first case of coronavirus
The Vatican has reported its first case of coronavirus today – days after Pope Francis tested negative for the virus.
The discovery takes the epidemic to the city-state surrounded by Italy, which has confirmed more than 3,800 cases and 148 deaths due to the virus.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the new case was diagnosed on Thursday and that services in Vatican clinics had been suspended to deep clean the areas.
Most Vatican employees who use its health services live in Italy, on the other side of the border with the 108-acre city-state.
Bruni gave no details on whether the person who tested positive was such an employee or was among the few clergy and guards who live inside its walls.
The Vatican said it is working with Italian authorities to keep the coronavirus from spreading, with a suspension of Pope Francis’ weekly audiences likely.
It was revealed on Tuesday that a member of staff in the Vatican had been placed in quarantine over fears they may have contracted the disease.
The worker had come into contact with a French priest who has since been hospitalised in Paris, and has been placed in isolation as a precaution.
It is unclear whether the two cases are related.
The confirmation of the Vatican’s first coronavirus case comes days after Pope Francis tested negative for the virus.
The pontiff, 83, had been forced to cancel a series of engagements last week due to an illness described ‘as a cold’.
He was given a ‘routine’ test after falling ill on Ash Wednesday with symptoms including a cough, fever, chills and sore throat.
He was given a swab test as a precaution but the Vatican said Pope Francis, who cancelled a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy, is suffering only from a cold that is ‘without symptoms related to other pathologies.’
Though Rome had no active cases at the time of his illness, fears were raised that Francis could have unknowingly contracted the disease after he was pictured shaking hands and kissing faces in a crowd of well-wishers in St Peter’s Square.
The fact doctors saw fit to test him for the illness shows those fears were shared by Vatican staff.
The first case in Vatican City comes as Italy continues to battle a coronavirus outbreak which has now affected all its regions.
The Vatican recently stepped up measures to try and prevent an outbreak in the city state – with masks and gloves distributed among staff who come into contact with the public.
Staff have also been advised to wash their hands thoroughly and avoid people with symptoms, while visitors are being asked to avoid forming dense crowds and to shield their faces when they cough or sneeze.
Italy reported 41 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, its highest single-day total to date, bringing the number of fatalities in Europe’s most affected country to 148.
The number of cases also jumped by a new high of 769, reaching 3,858 over the past two weeks.
The latest figures mean Italy has the second-most deaths behind China, where the new virus was first detected at the end of last year.