Mass testing has been carried out in the Vatican after a priest living at the Popes residence tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Msgr. Gianluca Pezzoli, 58, head of the Italian section of the Vatican's Secretariat of State tested positive earlier this week. He is a permanent resident at Santa Marta, Efe news reported on Friday. Pezzoli has now been hospitalized.
Pope Francis has already been tested once before after he had a bad cold but the result was negative. This was the pontiff's second COVID-19 test.
On Friday, Roman newspaper Il Messaggero said that another official State Secretary had also tested positive for coronavirus, although he lived in a residence outside the Vatican.
The Holy See has confirmed the existence of four coronavirus cases: workers at the Vatican Museum and an employee of the papal state.
With the infection reported by the Roman newspaper on Friday the total number of Vatican infections would be five.
The Vatican has not reported on the measures that have been taken to protect Pope Francis from possible contagion.
According to the Roman newspaper, Francis has stopped eating lunch in the common dining room and eats alone in his room and has limited visits, although he continues to receive people in private audiences.
He has also refused to move to the rooms of the papal palace, where previous popes lived, and which he rejected as he felt too isolated.
The Vatican has reported that the dicasteries (ministries) and other agencies have not suspended their activities, but have reduced the number of staff in the offices and promoted home working where possible.
The Vatican has also closed St. Peter's Square and the basilica temporarily until April 3, as a preventive measure against the spread of this virus.
Pope Francis offers daily morning mass, the general audiences on Wednesdays and the Angelus prayer which are all streamed online.
The pope has invited the faithful across the world to join him in prayer on Friday at 6 p.m.
The initiative was announced on Sunday's Angelus: "I invite everyone to participate spiritually through the means of communication".
The prayer comes after Wednesday's live-streamed ceremony during which Christians around the world gathered to pray the Our Father in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Friday, Italy reported 80,589 confirmed coronavirus cases with 8,215 deaths, the highest in the world.