The Vatican representative to East Timor said a visit by Pope Francis has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature, told reporters in Dili that Francis had previously indicated his willingness to visit East Timor later this year. But Sprizzi cited concerns about large crowds, saying “because he did not want his people affected by the coronavirus, he canceled his visit.”
The Vatican had never confirmed Francis would visit Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea later this year. The only foreign travel it has confirmed this year, a May 31 daytrip to Malta, likely will be called off given Malta on Tuesday barred all air traffic to and from Italy.
The Vatican, a walled city-state in the heart of Rome, has adopted the same sweeping lockdown measures imposed throughout Italy to contain the spread of the virus.
Francis now issues his blessings and celebrates his private morning Mass via livestream, and the Vatican has closed St. Peter’s Basilica to tourists, though it remains open for private prayer.
Indonesia says a foreigner has become its first fatality from COVID-19.
Achmad Yurianto, the government spokesman on efforts to contain the coronavirus, said Wednesday the 53-year-old woman had diabetes and lung disease and had contracted the virus abroad.
Yurianto did not reveal the patient’s nationality and said her husband will be repatriated soon.
The spokesman said two of Indonesia’s 27 cases have recovered. More than 119,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with more than half of those recovered. The virus causes mild illness for most people but can severe in older people and those with existing health problems.
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