The Latest: Pope delivers Sunday noon blessing via video

ROME (AP) — The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak (all times local):

12:40 p.m.

In an extraordinary measure aimed at discouraging crowds, Pope Francis didn’t appear at a Vatican palazzo window to deliver his Sunday noon Angelus blessing and remarks.

Instead, a video of his reading his comments and reciting prayers standing at a lectern near a microphone in the Vatican’s apostolic library was beamed on maxi-screens set up in St. Peter’s Square to the faithful.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled as the window opened and Francis appeared for a few seconds to wave to the people below in the square. But he made no comments from the window, having already delivered the broadcast remarks.

The measure — which was announced on Saturday — was aimed at discouraging crowds from gathering in the square, where on days with good weather like this Sunday as many as 40,000 people can turn out to watch the pope in the window. Several thousands of tourists and faithful turned out anyway, scattered across the vast, cobblestone square.

___

11:05 a.m.

Italy’s Rai state TV says the governor of Piedmont in northern Italy has the coronavirus, the latest Italian governor to test positive.

On Saturday, the governor of Lazio, the region including Rome, announced that he was staying in quarantine because he had been told he’s positive for the virus.

Earlier in the outbreak, the governor of Lombardy, the populous northern region at the heart of the outbreak, announced he was putting himself in quarantine because a close aide had tested positive.

___

10:40 a.m.

On the first day of a sweeping quarantine in northern Italy, even outdoor sites like the sprawling ruins of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed by volcanic eruption in 79 A.D., were shut to tourists.

In Rome, the blockbuster exhibition of “Raffaello,” a tribute to one of the Renaissance’s greatest artists for the 500th anniversary of his death, was shuttered Sunday, only three days after it opened to the public. A notice on its website said advance ticket holders would be contacted about the closure, which lasts until April 3.

The show, which assembled 120 works of Raphael in what was described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see so many of his paintings and drawings loaned from museums and private collections worldwide, is due to close on June 2. Curators have said it would be nearly impossible to prolong it, with some many works on loan from museums eager to have them back.

Italy announced the quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus’ relentless march across Europe.

___

10:40 a.m.

Bulgaria has announced its first four coronavirus cases.

The national coronavirus task force confirmed Sunday that a 27-year-old man from the northern town of Pleven and a 75-year-old woman from the central town of Gabrovo had tested positive for the virus.

Chief state health inspector Angel Kunchev said the two had not traveled or contacted anyone who had returned from a country with a coronavirus outbreak.

Both had been hospitalized a few days ago with severe respiratory problems.

After health officials tested a total of 70 people who had been in contact with the two infected, they announced that the samples of a 61-year-old man from Pleven and a female health worker from Gabrovo had tested positive.

The Balkan country of 7 million, which is one of the last in the region to report coronavirus cases, is already facing a nationwide influenza epidemic, with schools closed and hospitals packed with patients.

___

10:40 a.m.

Japan’s ancient sport of sumo is grappling with the harsh reality of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament kicked off on Sunday in Osaka at Edion Arena with no spectators as part of Japan’s extraordinary efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Wrestlers arrived wearing face masks and were required to use hand-sanitizing spray before entering the arena. They were also required to take their temperatures before entering the raised ring. If a wrestler has a temperature above 37.5 degrees celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more days, he will be forced to sit out the tournament.

Sumo officials have said if a wrestler is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the 15-day tournament will be immediately halted.

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Categories: International News