Pope to deliver blessings via video-link to help contain coronavirus spread

Pope Francis will deliver his next two public blessings via video to prevent crowds from gathering, as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

The Vatican said in a statement on Saturday that Francis will not hold his Sunday noon blessing from a window over St Peter's Square, as is tradition, and it will instead be streamed from the library in the Apostolic Palace.

Wednesday's audience will be handled in the same way.

Francis has also stopped celebrating morning Mass before invited guests at the chapel in the Vatican hotel where he lives, indicating his contact has been extremely limited in an apparent effort to prevent his infection.

The 83-year-old is currently recovering from a cold and with part of one lung removed due to a respiratory infection when he was younger, Francis would be at risk of serious complications if he were to catch the virus.

Italy has recommended that elderly people remain at home.

The measures come after the Vatican confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday.

The Pope appeared from a window high above St Peter's Square for last Sunday's blessing, pausing twice for short bouts of coughing.

He was also seen coughing and blowing his nose during Ash Wednesday Mass just days earlier.