Pope Francis’ comments came at the end of his address during his Ash Wednesday General Audience with the pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square.

The Holy Father turned his thoughts and prayers to those ill with coronavirus, those caring for them, and all those working diligently to containing the outbreak.

“I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health-care workers who are caring for them, as well as to the Civil Authorities and to all those that are committed in assisting the patients and halting the contagion.”

Pope Francis’ words came after mass suspension of Mass amid a drastic outbreak in Northern Italy of coronavirus with over 400 confirmed cases and 12 deaths, and dispensations from attending Mass in Hong Kong.

The Vatican adopted their own preventative measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni said events organized in enclosed spaces with a significant public presence will be postponed.

For example, the Pontifical Urban University canceled a presentation dedicated to Cardinal Celso Costantin with a large number of attendees, among them Cardinals Parolin, Tagle and Filoni.

Bruni also said a post was set up with “a nurse and doctor on duty for immediate assistance in the Vatican’s dispensary” to help “in case of patients with symptoms attributed to the coronavirus” and they’ve also set up “dispensers with hand disinfectants” around Vatican City offices.

Bruni said Vatican health officials have implemented “the procedures provided in the agreements with the Italian Ministry of Health” and that “the Health and Hygiene Office of Vatican City State is in constant contact with the Lazio Region and the Working group of the Health Ministry and will continue to do so and publish the recommendations made to it.”

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