Franciscan monks test positive for coronavirus in Assisi

FILE PHOTO: St. Francis Basilica is seen in Assisi, Italy, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Ten Franciscan monks and eight trainees in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, have tested positive for coronavirus and gone into isolation, the Catholic order said on Monday.

Father Enzo Fortunato, a spokesman, said the 18 were not in the main convent complex, which includes the basilica where the saint is buried, but housed in a separate structure for trainee monks, known as novices, and their immediate superiors.

The newly-arrived novices were from France, Malta and Croatia, Fortunato said, adding that they were all in good condition and the outbreak was not affecting visits by pilgrims and tourists to the basilica and main convent.

Visits take place with social distancing and masks.

Umbria, the central region where Assisi is located, has been one of the areas of Italy least hit by the coronavirus, counting for fewer than 100 of more than 35,000 deaths in the country.

The coronavirus has hit a number of places in Italy where nuns or priests live in close quarters.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne