Pope Francis has reportedly tested negative to coronavirus — shortly after he cancelled a Lent retreat for the first time over ill health.
The pontiff had prayed for coronavirus patients on Ash Wednesday and took time to shake hands with worshippers at the St Peter’s Square in the Vatican city.
He was later reported to have fallen ill prompting the cancellation of a planned mass in Rome — just as coronavirus continues to spread across Italy.
The 83-year-old pontiff went through a test after he was reported to have shown symptoms of flu such as cough, fever, chills and sore throat.
According to the Italian news outlet Il Messaggero, the results came back as negative, though Matteo Bruni, the Vatican City spokesperson, has not commented on the issue.
In Italy, the death toll from the zoonotic disease has risen to 52, with the number of confirmed cases in the country hitting 1694 — the highest reported so far outside of Asia.
Since the outbreak of the disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan, there has been public disquiet, and with economists expressing concerns about the impact of the pandemic on global economic growth.
So far, coronavirus has been confirmed in 64 countries across the world including Nigeria, United States, Canada, Singapore, Spain, Vietnam, Germany, UAE, France, Japan, Thailand, and Russia.