ROME — The Holy See Press Office announced Sunday that the Vatican Museums would be closed at least until April 3 as a “precautionary measure” against the spread of the coronavirus.
In its press release, the Vatican stated that along with the museums, the excavations (Scavi) under Saint Peter’s Basilica would also be closed to the public as well as the Museum of the Pontifical Villas and the museums attached to the papal basilicas in Rome.
As the Vatican City State’s number-one source of revenue, the Vatican Museums take in some 80 million euros annually through ticket sales, something it can ill afford to forego for long. The Museums have some 20,000 items on display and host more than 6 million visitors annually.
The Vatican reiterated that at the moment only one case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Vatican, an “external person” who had gone to the clinics of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene for a pre-hire medical examination. The 5 people who had had a contact with this person are all in precautionary quarantine.
On Friday, the head of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that a patient in its health services has tested positive for COVID-19, making it the Vatican’s first case of coronavirus.
As a result, the Vatican has temporarily shut down its outpatient services for “sanitization,” Bruni said.
On Saturday, the Holy See Press Office announced that the pope’s weekly addresses to the faithful on Wednesdays and Sundays will now be broadcast live but without the presence of pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square or the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
Instead of appearing at the window to greet the crowds on Sundays, the pope will deliver his greetings via video from the library of the Apostolic Palace.
“These choices are necessary to avoid risks of spreading COVID-19 due to gatherings during the security checks for access to the square, as requested also by the Italian authorities,” the Vatican said.
The press office also revealed that the pope will no longer celebrate daily Mass for a gathering of the faithful each morning in the chapel of his Santa Marta residence but will now celebrate the Eucharist privately “in compliance with the provisions of the Health and Hygiene Directorate of the Vatican City State.”
According to the most recent data, Italy currently has 5,883 cases of coronavirus. A total of 233 have died from the disease and 589 who had been infected are now cured, Corriere della Sera reported.