Pope Francis Offers Free Coronavirus Tests At Vatican For Homeless People
Pope Francis is welcoming homeless people to the Vatican to undergo free coronavirus tests and ensuring those who test positive have access to further treatment.
The Vatican announced the initiative this week as part of the Roman Catholic Church’s annual World Day of the Poor, which was launched in 2017 to bring attention to those in need, particularly in developed countries.
Activities that take place in honour of the day have been reduced this year as a result of the pandemic, but the new scheme allows as many as 50 people a day to undergo testing.
Homeless people in Rome will be able to have swabs taken at a clinic located by St. Peter’s Square, which the Pope set up several years ago to provide basic medical care to those who live on the streets.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella told reporters that testing was already underway and would continue indefinitely, Reuters reports.
Homeless people taking part in the initiative will continue to receive help after the swabs have been taken, as those who test negative are given a certificate to enter a shelter while patients who test positive are directed to further treatment.
Italy continues to struggle with coronavirus, and this week surpassed a total of one million confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country is among the top 10 worst affected for confirmed cases, and comes in sixth for the total number of deaths caused by the virus.
Medics have called for the country to enter a national lockdown, with doctors cited by The Guardian saying there would be an additional 10,000 deaths in a month unless drastic action is taken.
Giovanni Leoni, the vice-president of an Italian doctors’ federation, commented:
We need a general lockdown like the one in March and April, maybe for two or three weeks or a month, in order to bring the infection rate down.
The number of admissions to intensive care is doubling every 10 days and at this speed it will be very difficult to guarantee care to patients with other diseases.
The homeless population in Italy is largely made up of foreigners who do not have a family doctor with the national health system, and of Italians who become homeless and may be too embarrassed to return to their family doctors.
By offering free tests to those in need, Pope Francis ensures those living on the streets have access to the treatment and support they need amid the pandemic.
This year’s World Day of the Poor is marked on Sunday, November 15. In past years the Pope has held mass for thousands of people and offered lunch to 1,500 homeless people. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, only 100 people will attend this year’s mass, and 5,000 food parcels will be delivered to poor families in lieu of the lunch.
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