Pope Francis said Sunday he would not be taking part in a planned six-day spiritual retreat south of Rome after coming down with a “cold”.The 83-year-old pontiff suffered two coughing spells that forced him to turn away from the crowd and cover his mouth with his fist on a windy and cloudy day on Saint Peter’s Square.”Unfortunately, a cold forced me not to take part this year,” he said after reciting the traditional Angelus Prayer and addressing the unfolding migrant crisis on Turkey’s border with Greece. There have been 29 confirmed deaths and 105 people were receiving intensive care treatment in hospital — all of them in three adjacent northern regions near Milan.The Vatican quickly shot down speculation that the pope himself had come down with COVID-19.”There is no evidence to suggest a diagnosis of anything other than a slight ailment,” a Vatican spokesman told AFP Sunday.The pope himself looked relatively strong on Sunday despite the coughing fits.He smiled a few times and addressed a range of theological issues before turning his attention to the plight of thousands of migrants from Turkey who have been blocked at the rugged frontier with Greece. “I am a little saddened by the news coming from many displaced people, so many men, women and children chased because of war,” Francis said.The pontiff asked the faithful to share a prayer for “so many migrants who seek refuge in the world — and help”.Faithfuls listen to Pope Francis’ speech as he delivers the Sunday Angelus prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican on March 01, 2020. (AFP/ Filippo MONTEFORTE) Italy shuts down Concerns about the pope’s health have been mounting for days in a country where mass closures of public institutions and businesses due to the coronavirus are affecting the lives of millions.He first looked like he might be sick on Wednesday and lightened his workload for the rest of the week.The Vatican used the “mild ailment” term for the first time on Thursday to explain why the pope was spending his day around his Saint Martha’s guest house in the Vatican.But he still continued celebrating the morning mass and receiving visitors even as football matches were being cancelled and businesses were telling their employees to work from home.He met with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church head Sviatoslav Shevchuk on Saturday and spent almost 15 minutes speaking on Sunday from his Vatican window.The Argentine-born pontiff has enjoyed a life of good health despite losing part of a lung as a young man and suffered from sciatica — a nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.Yet he rarely cancels appointments and normally takes extra time to mingle with supporters and the faithful.Topics : The annual retreat will still start Sunday but only include members of the Roman Curia administration team of the Holy See.The pope will be staying home while the rest of Italy battles Europe’s worst outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has spread from China to every continent except for Antarctica.Pope Francis wipes his nose during the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent, the forty-day period of abstinence and deprivation for Christians before Holy Week and Easter, on February 26, 2020, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome. – Pope Francis postponed his official appointments on February 28 and was working from home, the Vatican said, a day after cancelling a scheduled appearance at mass because of “a mild ailment”. Francis, 83, had appeared earlier in the week to be suffering from a cold. He was seen blowing his nose and coughing during the Ash Wednesday service, and his voice sounded hoarse. (AFP/Alberto PIZZOLI)The number of cases in Italy surpassed 1,000 on Saturday and the toll continues to mount.
Residents of infection hotspot Madrid are to be barred from leaving except on essential trips under new rules to fight the coronavirus resurgence, Spain’s government said on Wednesday.But regional authorities said the decision had no legal basis, setting the stage for a political showdown in an area accounting for more than a third of Spain’s 133,604 new cases in the past two weeks.”Madrid’s health is Spain’s health. Madrid is special,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference to announce the new regulations, due to come into force in days. The capital city, with more than 3 million people, and nine surrounding municipalities with at least 100,000 inhabitants each, are to see borders closed to outsiders for non-essential visits, the government said.People would be allowed to cross boundaries for work, school, doctors’ visits or shopping, but not for leisure.Other measures include the closure of bars and restaurants at 11 p.m., from a previous curfew of 1 a.m., as well as shutting parks and playgrounds.Social gatherings will be limited to six people. Madrid has 735 cases per 100,000 people, one of the highest of any region in Europe and double Spain’s national rate.The conservative regional assembly had already enforced localized lockdowns in 45, mostly poor districts, often with a high immigrant population.But the wider restrictions announced by Illa see the Socialist-led central government override the regional authority after weeks of fighting over what should be done.”The decision is not valid legally,” regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero repeatedly told a news conference of the lockdown plan, even though the local authorities had seemingly accepted some steps on Tuesday. “The Spanish government is in a hurry to intervene in Madrid but not to defeat the virus.”Escudero did not specify what measures regional authorities may take to oppose the lockdown.Political polarization over the pandemic has exasperated people in Spain, which has recorded 769,188 cases – the highest in Western Europe – and 31,791 deaths. Topics :