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March 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Vatican official close to Pope Francis has tested positive for coronavirus, adding a fifth case of the disease within Vatican City. Pope Francis has also been tested in the wake of the discovery, confirming that he remains virus-free.

According to reports in the Italian media, the Vatican official who tested positive lives in Casa Santa Marta, where Pope Francis has also lived since the beginning of his pontificate, and is a “close collaborator of the Pontiff.” He works in the Italian section of the Secretariat of State.

The official, whose name has not been released to the public, was reportedly transported to a hospital in Rome, the Policlinico Gemelli, where he has been put under “precautionary” observation. It therefore appears that he does not yet have grave symptoms.

The case marks the second time that Pope Francis has been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19. The first occurred on March 9, during an ad limina meeting of the pope with 29 French bishops that included Bishop Emmanuel Delma, who was infected with the virus and already experiencing symptoms at the time.

This most recent test of Pope Francis for COVID-19 marks the second time that the pontiff has been checked for the virus. In both cases, the test result has been negative.

According to recent statements made by Francis and the Italian media, Francis continues to work and even to hold private audiences in the Vatican while limiting contact with others.

According to a recent announcement by Vatican News, the offices of the Vatican curia continue to operate, although precautionary measures are being taken. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has been shut down completely. Recent reports in the Italian media indicate that Francis has confined himself to a few locations and is eating alone, rather than in the refectory with other guests at Casa Santa Marta, whose number has been reduced. He is saying daily Mass virtually alone, assisted by only thee other clerics.

“Pope Francis lives practically as a recluse in a few places,” states the newspaper Il Messaggero. “In the morning he celebrates alone in the chapel with his three secretaries, eats alone in his room even if he receives the heads of dicasteries in the morning, often in the apostolic palace where there is a lot of space. The meetings take place at a proper distance but they always end with good handshake, although beforehand their hands are sterilized with antiseptic gel.”

However, the well known Vaticanist reporter Antonio Socci yesterday claimed in a tweet that he has been told that Francis is now “terrified by the fear of COVID” and is remaining in his room most of the day.

The current policy of the Holy See is to maintain operations while minimizing risk to personnel. Offices are being sterilized, and people are maintaining a distance of one meter from one another and applying sanitizer to their hands. People are being encouraged to work from home, and only a reduced staff is present in the offices. Those who test positive for the virus are immediately sent to a hospital.

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