Seven more Vatican Swiss Guards test positive for the coronavirus

Swiss Guards 2 at the Commemoration of the fallen with conferment in the Protomartyrs Square on May 6 2015 Credit Bohumil Petrik CNA 5 6 15 Swiss Guards in the Protomartyrs’ Square in Vatican City, May 6, 2015. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard announced Thursday that seven more of its members have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The world's smallest but oldest standing army said in a statement Oct. 15 that a total of 11 members had now contracted the virus. 

"The isolation of positive cases was immediately arranged and further checks are being carried out," it said.

The unit, which has 135 soldiers, emphasized that it would follow strict new measures to contain COVID-19 issued earlier this month by the Governorate of Vatican City State. It said it would also seek to minimize the risk of spreading the virus in the locations where Swiss Guards serve.

It added that it would offer an update on the situation "in the next few days."

The Vatican confirmed Monday that an initial four Swiss Guards had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Responding to journalists' questions Oct. 12, Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni said that the four members had been placed in isolation following positive tests at the weekend.

"During these hours, the necessary checks are being carried out among those who may have been in direct contact with them," he said.

Citing the Governorate of Vatican City State's new measures, he explained that all guards would wear face masks, both indoors and outdoors, regardless of whether they were on duty. They would also observe all other rules intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Italy was one of Europe's worst-hit countries during the first wave of the coronavirus. More than 381,602 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 36,372 have died in Italy as of Oct. 15, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Cases are once again rising.

Pope Francis remained at a distance from pilgrims throughout his general audience Oct. 14, arriving via a side entrance and leaving without mingling with members of the public. 

At the end of the audience, he apologized for not greeting pilgrims up close, urging everyone present to follow measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

He said: "Forgive me if today I greet you from afar, but I believe that if we all, as good citizens, fulfill the authorities' requirements, this will be a help to end this pandemic."

Pope Francis received 38 new recruits to the Swiss Guards in an audience Oct. 2.

He told them: "The time you will spend here is a unique moment in your existence: may you live it with a spirit of brotherhood, helping one another to lead a life rich in meaning and joyfully Christian."

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