ROME – In the wake of the first confirmed Vatican case of coronavirus, spokesman Matteo Bruni announced Friday that all outpatient services offered by the Vatican’s Directorate of Health and Hygiene have been suspended in order to sanitize the facility.
The Vatican’s emergency first aid operation will remain open, according to Bruni.
“This morning all outpatient services of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene of the Vatican City State have been temporarily suspended in order to sanitize the environment following a positive test for COVID-19 found yesterday in a patient,” Bruni’s statement read.
“However, the first aid facility is still functioning,” he said.
“The Directorate of Health and Hygiene is informing the competent Italian authorities, and, in the meantime, is activating the anticipated sanitary protocols.”
Since 1929, the year of the Lateran Pacts, the Vatican has offered an outpatient care facility for its own employees and residents of the City State, which is located next to the Vatican Pharmacy. In 2018, at the request of Pope Francis, an outpatient facility was also opened in St. Peter’s Square to care for homeless persons, migrants and refugees, and others who congregate in the area around the square.
The Vatican also operates a first aid facility for anyone who has urgent need of care on Vatican territory, which tends to be especially active during major events held in either St. Peter’s Basilica or Square.
Although Friday’s announcement marks the first case of coronoavirus linked to the Vatican, Italy has been the European epicenter of the disease. As of Thursday evening, the latest official figures reported a total of 3,858 cases, with 414 persons recovered from the disease and 148 deaths. The median age of a coronavirus casualty in Italy is 81, and two-thirds of those who have died were also reported to have suffered from other maladies.
Concern over the spread of the virus recently led Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to announce a series of preventive measures, including closing universities and schools until March 15, as well as playing sporting events, including Italy’s obsessively followed Serie A soccer matches, behind closed doors.
Concerns over exposure to the coronavirus have also forced the Catholic Church in Italy to curtail its activities, with the Diocese of Rome, for instance, recently announcing the suspension of all non-liturgical activities such as catechesis, marriage preparation and youth ministry.
On Thursday Bruni suggested the Vatican too may have to take similar measures, telling reporters that “with regard to the upcoming activities of the Holy Father, the Holy See, and the Vatican City State, measures are being studied to prevent the spread of Covid-19”.
Any actions taken, Bruni said, will be done in coordination with measures decreed by the Italian authorities.
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