Pope Francis tested negative for the novel coronavirus after the health condition of the 83-year-old triggered fear of a possible infection, reported an Italian newspaper. The Pope had skipped the week-long Lenten spiritual retreat with senior Vatican officials near Rome for the first time in his papacy since his election in 2013.
The Vatican said that the decision to skip the retreat was a last-minute one considering the health of the Pope who was seen coughing and sneezing during his first public appearance in four days. The Vatican had earlier said that Pope Francis was suffering from “slight indisposition” that forced him to avoid public appearance.
Pope was battling an apparent cold that led to the cancellation of several official engagements and finally appeared on March 1 where he said that a cold prevented him to participate in the retreat. The Vatican did not reveal the nature of Pope's illness, however, his illness was reported amid alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak.
While speaking to an international media outlet, Matteo Bruni dismissed the speculations that the Pope was anything more than slightly unwell. He reportedly said that there is no evidence that would lead to diagnosing anything but a “slight indisposition”. Bruni has not officially confirmed the report on Pope Francis regarding the coronavirus.
The 83-year-old had lost part of his lung to respiratory illness in his early 20s, however, he has never cancelled so many official audiences or events in his seven years of papacy. He was expected to travel to a Church residence south of Rome for the annual week-long Lenten spiritual retreat but the plan was cancelled in the last minute.
The threat of a pandemic is growing with every passing day and the European Union has also raised the risk level of coronavirus from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’. Speaking at a news conference on March 2, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control raised the risk level looking at the concerning situation.
(With agency inputs)