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Pope Francis is tested for the coronavirus

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Pope Francis leads a prayer service in an empty St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 March 2020. Photo: CNS, Yara Nardi, pool via Reuters

Vatican confirms Pope Francis does not have the virus

Neither Pope Francis nor any of his closest collaborators have the COVID-19 virus, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office.

In a note dated 28 March, Bruni confirmed that a monsignor, who works in the Vatican Secretariat of State and lives in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, did test positive for the coronavirus and, “as a precaution,” was hospitalised.

The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero and the Jesuit-run America Magazine published reports March 25 about the monsignor testing positive.

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Bruni said that as of 28 March, the Vatican health service had conducted more than 170 tests for the virus. No one else who lives at the Domus Sanctae Marthae tested positive, Bruni said.

As soon as the monsignor tested positive, he said, his room and office were sanitised and all the people he had come into contact with over the preceding days were contacted.

Cases rise to six at the Holy See

“The health authorities carried out tests on the people in closest contact with the positive individual,” Bruni said. “The results confirmed the absence of other positive cases” among the residents of the Vatican guesthouse, but another employee of the Holy See who was in “close contact with the official” did test positive.

That brings to six the number of people in the Vatican who have tested positive, he said.

The Vatican press office had confirmed the first four cases on 24 March. The first, already confirmed by the Vatican on 6 March, was a priest from Bergamo who had a routine pre-employment exam at the Vatican health clinic. After he was discovered with symptoms, the clinic was closed temporarily for special cleaning, and the five people the priest came into contact with were put under a preventive quarantine.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, March 26, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Vatican Media

There were reports at the same time that the offices of the Secretariat of State were closed temporarily for a thorough cleaning. The Vatican did not say when the next three people tested positive, but it said one worked in the Vatican warehouse and two worked at the Vatican Museums.

All four, the Vatican said March 24, “were placed in precautionary isolation” before their test results came back. “The isolation has already lasted more than 14 days; currently they are receiving care in Italian hospitals or in their own homes.”

Pope ‘unlikely’ to have had contact

Both America Magazine and Il Messaggero said Pope Francis was unlikely to have had contact with the monsignor from the Secretariat of State who tested positive. Both reported that Pope Francis has been eating his meals in his room rather than the dining room since coming down with a bad cold after Ash Wednesday on 26 February.

While the Vatican has canceled all group meetings, Pope Francis continues to meet with individuals each day.

News reports said the pope and his guests use hand sanitiser before and after the meetings.

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