Pope Francis tests negative for COVID-19 after falling ill

Pope Francis.

Vatican City,  Pope Francis has tested negative for the coronavirus after he fell ill and was forced to cancel a religious retreat near Rome, a media report said on Tuesday.

For the first time since he became Pope, the pontiff did not go to the week-long Lent retreatthat began on Sunday night at a Church residence south of Rome, as he was suffering from a heavy cold, the Metro newspaper said in the report.

The 83-year-old was then tested for coronavirus, the results of which came back negative, according to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero this morning.

But Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said he had no immediate comment on the report.

Pope Francis fell ill as Italy was battling a surging outbreak of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

The death toll in Italy jumped to 52 on Monday from 34 the day before and the total number of confirmed cases in Europe’s worst affected country climbed past the 2,000 mark.

Francis’ appearance on Sunday was the first time he has been seen publicly since Ash Wednesday, when he was also seen coughing and blowing his nose during Mass, said the Metro newspaper.

Earlier this week, he cancelled two planned official audiences – formal affairs in the Apostolic Palace where Francis would have delivered a speech and greeted a great number of people at the end.

The Vatican has said that he was continuing to work from his residence at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel and was receiving people in private.