Vatican closes St Peter's Square and Basilica to tourists

Published 12 March 2020  |  
(Photo: Unsplash/Kévin Langlais
St Peter's Square and Basilica have been closed to tourists to prevent large crowds forming during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Vatican has closed off St Peter's Square and the Basilica to tourists in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The closure is part of a raft of measures introduced by the Vatican in light of the spread of coronavirus around Italy,which has forced the entire country into lockdown.

Other steps being taken by the Vatican include closing its mobile post office unit in St Peter's Square, and restricting the number of people who can enter the Vatican pharmacy and supermarket at the same time in order to prevent crowds forming.

The Vatican has also closed its staff canteen and activated a meal delivery service instead for the various offices of the Holy See and Vatican City State.

The measures will be in place until at least 3 April.

It comes as the Pope this week delivered his Wednesday General Audience via livestream from the Apostolic Library inside the Vatican.

The switch to live broadcast was made after Vatican City reported its first case of coronavirus last Friday.

In his first General Audience since Italy went into lockdown, the Pope thanked those working to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and "men and women of goodwill who are praying - united together, no matter the religious tradition to which they belong".

"Right now, I would like to speak directly to all those ill with the coronavirus, who are suffering from this sickness, and to the many people suffering uncertainty related to their own illnesses," he said.

"I offer my heartfelt thanks to hospital personnel, doctors, nurses, and volunteers who in this difficult moment are close to people who are suffering.

Despite the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, he said that the world must not forget Syrians suffering in the ongoing civil war, and migrants caught at the border between Greece and Turkey.

"I would not want this suffering, this very serious epidemic, to make us forget the poor Syrian people who are suffering on the border between Greece and Turkey; a people who have suffered for years," he said.

"Let us not forget our brothers and sisters, including so many children who are suffering there."

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