Pope Francis has tested negative for coronavirus after he was forced to cancel a series of engagements last week due to illness.
The 83-year-old pontiff was given a ‘routine’ test after falling ill on Ash Wednesday with symptoms of a cold including a cough, fever, chills and sore throat.
He was given a swab test as a precaution but the results have come back negative, according to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.
Francis fell ill as Italy battles a coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 2,000 people and killed 52.
While Rome had no active cases at the time of his illness, fears were raised that he could have unknowingly contracted the disease after he was pictured shaking hands and kissing faces in a crowd of well-wishers in St Peter’s Square.
The fact that doctors saw fit to test him for the illness shows those fears were shared by Vatican staff.
Medics have not said what the Pope is suffering from, but he previously described it as ‘a cold’.
Vatican City has yet to report its first case of coronavirus, but it was revealed on Tuesday that a member of staff has been placed in quarantine over fears they may have contracted the disease.
The worker had come into contact with a French priest who has since been hospitalised in Paris and has been placed in isolation as a precaution.
The Vatican has stepped up measures to try and prevent an outbreak – with masks and gloves will be distributed among staff coming into contact with the public.
Staff have also been advised to wash their hands thoroughly and avoid people with symptoms, while visitors are being asked to avoid forming dense crowds and to shield their faces when they cough or sneeze.
Francis’s last full day of public engagements was on Ash Wednesday when he appeared ill while taking part in an evening Mass.
He was seen coughing, sneezing and appeared tired during the ceremony, before cancelling an engagement the following morning.
He then disappeared from public view for the next four days while he recovered, before appearing at the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sunday to address thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for a noon blessing.
During the blessing, he announced he would not be participating in a yearly spiritual retreat for Lent that was due to start this week.
Instead, he said he would be following it from his residence in a Vatican guest house.
He has been taken ill at a time when Italy is 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.