Eleven members of the Swiss Guard, which protects the pope, have contracted coronavirus, adding to fears about the pontiff’s health.
Four men became the first members of the Guard to test positive on Monday and seven more cases were announced today.
The Vatican would now try to find out who the infected guards might have had contact with.
The guards keep watch outside the Vatican and tend to accompany the Pope to official events.
Pope Francis, 83, is particularly vulnerable to Covid-93 due to his age, weight and having lost part of a lung during childhood illness. It is frequently monitored for the virus.
Pope Francis (left) is seen during a ceremony for new recruits to the Swiss Guard at the Vatican on October 2
The guards, pictured here at attention on October 4, are instantly recognizable by their striped suits, ruffles, and feathered helmets and are a favorite sight for tourists visiting the Vatican.
Francis has been criticized in recent weeks for appearing to ignore social distancing rules and not wearing a mask when speaking to large crowds in St. Peter’s Square.
He was also pictured kissing the hands of several people he met in the course of his duties.
However, the gregarious Argentine seems to have heard the criticism and this week has vowed to be more vigilant.
At his weekly hearing on Wednesday, he apologized to the crowd for greeting them from a distance.
“I would like, as usual, to approach you and greet you, but… you better keep your distance,” the Telegraph reported.
“I believe that if all of us, as good citizens, respect the prescriptions of the authorities, it will help to end this pandemic. “
Despite his comments to worshipers, Francis was pictured without a mask on Friday during an audience with Christian Wulff, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Francis was pictured next to Christian Wulff, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, at a hearing on Friday in another apparent violation of security restrictions.
Neither the pontiff nor Wulff wore masks during their indoor meeting on Friday. The Vatican last week introduced new restrictions on coronaviruses, including wearing masks at all times and practicing social distancing
Last week, the Vatican introduced new restrictions on coronaviruses, including wearing masks at all times, including outdoors, and the practice of social distancing.
After the first four guards tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, a Vatican spokesperson announced new measures for the Swiss Guard.
“All guards, whether on duty or not, will wear masks inside and outside to observe prohibited sanitary measures,” the spokesperson said.
A member of the Swiss Guard stands next as Francis (right) addresses supporters on Wednesday. The smallest army in the world, the Swiss Guard was formed in 1506 to protect the Pope
Aside from the guards, 15 people residing in Vatican City have contracted coronavirus, of which 12 have recovered.
No coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the territory.
Despite relatively low numbers in the city-state, concerns for the pontiff’s health have grown as Italy – which surrounds Vatican City – grapples with a sharp rise in daily cases, with a record 8,803 reported Thursday.
More than 36,000 people have died from the virus in Italy since the pandemic reached the country in late February.
A Vatican spokesperson said all guards “on or off” would be required to wear masks indoors or outdoors. Above, a member of the Swiss Guard
The smallest army in the world, the Swiss Guard was created in 1506 by Pope Julius II for its protection and currently numbers more than 100.
They are a popular tourist magnet in the Vatican, with their showy yellow, red, and blue uniforms, halberds – an ax-shaped weapon – and metal helmets with ostrich plumage.
According to tradition, Swiss Guards must be males between 19 and 30 years old and at least 1.74 meters tall. They must be practicing, unmarried Roman Catholics.
Today’s Swiss Guard is said to have a more personal and informal relationship with the current pontiff, who is less committed to strict papal protocol than his predecessors.
In the recent film The Two Popes, which depicts a series of fictitious encounters between Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, Francis can be seen joking with a member of the Guard on several occasions.
An elite recruit of the Vatican Swiss Guard raises three fingers, a sign of the Holy Trinity, during the swearing-in ceremony for new members at the Cortile di San Damaso on October 4