ROME – A Vatican spokesman confirmed media reports Saturday that an official living at the same residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, insisting that the pope himself and those close to him do not have the disease.
In a March 28 statement, spokesman Matteo Bruni said the person in question “is an official from the Secretariat of State who resides at Santa Marta and who, presenting some symptoms, was subsequently placed in isolation.”
Bruni said the positive test was the result of routine checks the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department had been carrying out on employees and officials of the Vatican, several of whom live at the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, where Pope Francis also resides.
According to the statement, the official, whom Bruni did not identify, does not have “particularly critical” symptoms, but as a precaution was admitted to a hospital in Rome under observation and is in close contact with the Vatican’s health department.
Following the positive test, the official’s apartment and work space were sanitized, and Vatican health personnel have reached out to those with whom the official had been in contact in the days leading up to his diagnosis.
In carrying out tests, Bruni said one further positive case was identified among employees of the Holy See who had close contact with the official, but no one else at the Saint Martha house has tested positive.
“I can confirm that neither the Holy Father nor his closest collaborators are involved,” Bruni said, explaining that as a precaution, given the second positive test, the Vatican’s health department has taken appropriate sanitation measures and has performed around 170 tests in total of officials and employees of the Vatican, including those living at the Santa Marta house.
These tests “have all resulted negative,” Bruni said, noting that currently there are six people in the Vatican who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Confirmed on March 6, the first case was a priest who during a routine exam at the Vatican’s health clinic tested positive, prompting the closing and sanitation of the clinic.
Bruni’s statement Saturday was accompanied by a caution to journalists to respect “the ethical rules of journalism,” particularly those regarding maintaining the privacy of the identity of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, “particularly when they do not hold institutional roles.”
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