Pope goes livestream to fight viral epidemic

Published March 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis decided to deliver Sunday’s prayer by livestream and Italy called in retired doctors as the escalating new coronavirus epidemic emptied streets in Europe’s worst affected country.

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves during the weekly general audience at Vatican, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves during the weekly general audience at Vatican, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

The 83-year-old pontiff broke with centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology to keep crowds from descending on Saint Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus Prayer.

“The prayer will be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square,” the Vatican said in a statement.

It had originally promised to review the Argentine-born pope’s schedule “to avoid the dissemination” of the COVID-19 disease.

The Vatican appears to believe that the pope’s absence from his traditional spot at the window will keep the crowds on the vast square down and the threat of contagion low.

The pope himself has been out of action for more than a week with a cold.

The Vatican is in the process of unrolling unprecedented health precautions designed to keep the city state’s 450 mostly elderly residents safe.

It recorded its first infection on Thursday and was awaiting the results of a test on another person who appeared at a Vatican-organized event last month.

That conference was also attended by Microsoft President Brad Smith and European Parliament President David Sassoli.

The Vatican said all those present were being notified about the test as a precaution.

Coalition leader gets virus

The Italian government has found itself at the forefront of the global fight against an epidemic that has convulsed the markets and paralyzed global supply chains since first emerging in China late last year.

Ministers decided at an all-night emergency meeting to call in retired doctors as part of an effort to bolster the strained healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff.

Italy recorded 36 more deaths on Saturday and has now seen 233 die from COVID-19 in two weeks.

The head of the Italian ruling coalition’s junior partner became the latest high-profile figure to confirm they had been infected.

“I am fine,” the Democratic Party’s Nicola Zingaretti said on Facebook. “I will have to stay at home for the next few days.”