ROME — Pope Francis’ vicar for Rome has tested positive for the coronavirus in the first case of a cardinal close to the pope known to be infected.
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis had been in touch with Francis in recent weeks — apparently not in person, however — over the cardinal’s initial decision to close all Rome churches in line with an Italian government shutdown decree.
De Donatis reversed himself after Francis intervened, and allowed diocesan churches to remain open for individuals to pray.
The pope is technically bishop of Rome, but he delegates the day-to-day running of the diocese to his vicar, De Donatis, 66. The Rome church said De Donatis was in good condition at Rome’s Gemelli hospital and was receiving antiviral treatment.
The Holy See has said six people have tested positive for the virus in the Vatican, none of them the pope or his closest advisers.
Meanwhile, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza says Italy will follow the recommendation of scientists and extend a nationwide lockdown at least until April 12.
The lockdown decree currently runs until April 3, and doctors and other health experts have been cautioning that Italy’s cases of COVID-19 haven’t reached their peak yet, despite some encouraging numbers.
Speranza says the national scientific technical committee recommended “extending the containment measures at least until Easter,” April 12. He added: “The government will move in this direction.”
Italy has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and nearly 11,600 deaths of infected persons.