AMID fears of COVID-19 spread in Italy, Pope Francis has postponed his official appointments on Friday (28) and was working from home, the Vatican said.
At the latest count, as many as 17 people in Italy have died due to the virus and 650 affected are affected.
Francis, 83, had appeared earlier in the week to be suffering from a cold.
He was seen blowing his nose and coughing during the Ash Wednesday service, and his voice sounded hoarse, AFP reported.
He celebrated morning mass as usual and greeted participants at the end, but cleared his diary of everything apart from meetings at the Saint Martha’s guest house at the Vatican he lives, chief press officer Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
However, the Vatican made no reference to the disease in its announcement.
Vatican City is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy.
The Pope has not previously curtailed any of his activities, which often include mingling with crowds and shaking hands.
He had lost part of a lung as a young man and suffers from sciatica, a severe pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and leg.