By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Four members of the Vatican Swiss Guards, the elite and colourfully dressed corps that protects the pope, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Vatican said on Monday.
The results came in over the weekend and added to three other residents or citizens of the tiny Vatican city-state who have tested positive in recent weeks, according to a statement.
They are believed to be the first in the corps to test positive.
Nearly all of the guard are single men who live in a barracks just inside the Vatican gates. The commanders and married members live in separate apartments. All members have Swiss nationality.
The Vatican said all of those who had tested positive had mild symptoms. They have been isolated and tracing of those with whom they had been in direct contact was underway.
The Vatican last week instituted prevention measures stipulating that everyone had to wear masks, even outdoors, and practice social distancing.
But some have noted that Pope Francis does not wear a mask at his general audiences and sometimes comes in relatively close contact with visitors, who are wearing masks. Sometimes, the visitors lower their masks so the pope can hear them and Vatican security men have not intervened to ask them to cover their mouth and nose.
Some of his closest aides also have not been wearing masks at the audiences.
The pope had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
He sometimes breathes heavily after climbing steps and some Vatican officials have speculated that difficulty breathing may be a reason he does not wear a mask in large spaces.
He has, however, worn masks in cars taking him to venues.
Italy on Friday topped 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time since March.
The county is set to ban private parties and limit the numbers of guests at weddings and funerals among new restrictions aimed at curbing a surge in coronavirus infections.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)