A Vatican worker who lives in the same residence as Pope Francis has been hospitalised after reportedly testing positive for coronavirus.
The clergyman, who has not been named, has lived in the Holy See’s Saint Martha’s guest house for years.
Pope Francis, 83, also uses the building as his residence, to take his meals and for private meetings. He has remained largely secluded since coming down with a cold at the end of last month.
Italy has remained at the epicentre of Europe’s virus outbreak and has recorded more deaths than China due to the disease.
The guest house is being disinfected by Vatican authorities.
The Pontiff, who is said to be in good health, live-streamed a mass at the Santa Marta church this morning.
As well as using the Saint Martha guest house, the pope also visits the Vatican Library to record messages for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
The La Stampa and Il Messagro newspapers said the unnamed person has been hospitalised in Rome and steps have been taken to disinfect the building.
La Stampa additionally reported that Pope Francis has been ‘eating alone in his room for some time’ as a precaution.
‘He spends much of his time in his apartment, and when he moves inside the residence, he keeps the necessary safe distances,’ La Stampa wrote.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told AFP he could neither confirm nor deny the reports.
The official Vatican News website said the number of people infected in the city state has risen to four.
This includes one person who first tested positive on March 6.
‘The new cases include an employee of the merchandise office and two employees of the Vatican Museums,’ the official news site said.
The Argentine-born pontiff has enjoyed a life of good health despite losing part of a lung as a young man and suffered from sciatica – a nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.
The pope gave a video address on Tuesday where he urged Christians not to ‘complain about everything’ or indulge in ‘evil’ self-pity.
Francis said that sloth – marked by carelessness, apathy and self-pity – is a ‘poison, a fog that envelops the soul and doesn’t let it live’, before offering prayers for health workers and priests who have died helping those suffering from coronavirus.
Hours later the pope also ran a mass Lord’s Prayer through an online broadcast to help comfort people amid the outbreak.
The pope has been holding his general audiences and Sunday blessings over the internet and television from the official papal library instead of before crowds numbering tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.