Pope Francis has cancelled official engagements for the third day in a row as he battles an apparent cold.

The 83-year-old, who lost part of a lung to a respiratory illness as a young man, has never cancelled so many official audiences or events in his seven-year papacy.

He is continuing to work from his residence at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel and is receiving people in private, with the Vatican not revealing the nature of his illness.

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Francis last appeared in public on Wednesday, when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during an Ash Wednesday Mass.

The Vatican has stressed that Francis has celebrated Mass each morning and greeted attendees at the end, and then proceeded to continue working from home.

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It comes amid general alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 800 people, mostly in northern Italy.