March 25, 2020 / 8:56 PM / 14 days ago

Person who lives in papal residence tests positive for coronavirus: report

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A person who lives in the same Vatican residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for coronavirus and is being treated in an Italian hospital, the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero reported on Wednesday.

The Vatican had no comment on the report.

Francis, who has canceled public appearances and is conducting his general audiences via television and the internet, has lived in the guesthouse, known as Santa Marta, since his election in 2013.

Santa Marta has about 130 rooms and suites but many are not occupied now, a Vatican source said.

Nearly all of the current residents live there permanently. Most outside guests have not been accepted since Italy went on a national lockdown earlier this month.

Il Messaggero said the person works in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and a Vatican source said he is believed to be a priest.

The Vatican said on Tuesday that four people had so far tested positive inside the city-state but those it listed do not reside in the guesthouse where the 83-year-old pope lives.

Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with latest figures on Wednesday showing that 7,503 people have died from the infection in barely a month.

The Vatican is surrounded by Rome and most of its employees live in the Italian capital.

In recent weeks, the Vatican told most employees to work from home but it has kept its main offices open, albeit with reduced staff.

Opened in 1996, Santa Marta houses cardinals who come to Rome and lock themselves up in a conclave to elect a new pope in the Sistine Chapel.

It was not clear if recently the pope has been eating in the common dining area of the guest house as he had done earlier.

Francis opted to live in a suite in the guesthouse instead of the spacious but isolated papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, as his predecessors did.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, William Maclean

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