Vatican City, Holy See:
The Vatican reported its first coronavirus case on Friday and immediately took steps to protect hundreds of priests and residents.
A patient who tested positive for COVID-19 at the Vatican Health Clinic on Thursday told Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni to AFP without further details.
The clinic in the tiny city-state with around 450 residents is being thoroughly cleaned, but the emergency department remains open, added Bruni.
The Vatican is completely surrounded by Italy, which fights the deadliest outbreak outside of China – 148 people have died in the past two weeks and over 3,800 people have been infected.
The Vatican Clinic is used by priests, residents and employees – including those who are now retired – and their relatives.
Bruni said that according to the protocol, the Vatican had contacted everyone who had gone through the clinic.
Most Vatican employees live in the Lazio region, where 44 people tested positive for the virus.
Pope Francis has a bad cold, but has reportedly been tested negative for COVID-19.
The 83-year-old has a personal doctor and does not visit the medical center – with the exception of rare trips to greet the staff.
– "Avoid spreading" –
The Vatican said Thursday that it was considering changes to Pope Francis' schedule "to avoid the spread of the new corona virus."
It was not certain whether the Argentine Pope would be temporarily kept away from crowds or whether he would stop shaking hands with visitors.
Francis has not been seen in public since he announced during his traditional Sunday prayer in front of the crowds in St. Peter's Square that he would skip an annual spiritual refuge south of Rome because of a cold.
The Pope has shortened his schedule and spent most of his time at home, in the Saint Martha guest house in the Vatican.
"The cold that the Holy Father was diagnosed with is in full swing," Bruni told journalists on Thursday.
Francis lost part of his lungs as a young man and suffers from sciatica – a nerve condition that causes hip pain.
But he rarely cancels appointments and usually takes extra time to mingle with the crowd.
The Vatican is expected to provide masks and gloves to personnel who work in close contact with tourists.
Like many of the monuments and famous squares in Rome, St. Peter's Square and the museums are largely deserted.
In Rome, priests discourage people from exchanging the sign of peace and the holy water writings are emptied.