The Catholic shrine at Lourdes is to close its baths in response to the growing coronavirus crisis.
The famed holy place us where 69 people claim to have had miracle cures for their incurable illnesses,
A message on the shrine’s official website states: "Our first concern will always be the safety and health of the pilgrims and the shrine's working community.
"As a precaution, the pools have been closed until further notice."
It continues: “It is highly unlikely that the coronavirus will spread through the water. However, the baths are a place where people are more exposed because they are bare.
“As a precautionary measure, the Sanctuary encourages the individual gesture of water, which consists of personally wetting one’s face and hands with the water from the Cave flowing from the fountains.”
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The website stresses that the taps that fill the baths are treated with a disinfectant several times a day.
The regular mass, which concludes with congregants being invited to shake hands, is being altered until the crisis passes.
Catholics voiced concerns recently after the Pope was rumoured to be suffering from a chest infection.
HCPT, a specialist agency that organises tours to Lourdes, has canceled its 2020 Easter Pilgrimage to the site.
An announcement from the company read: "We are acutely aware of the disappointment of this decision and the impact it will have on our pilgrims who have been looking forward to this event for some time.
"This sadness is shared by thousands right across HCPT, who have been preparing for this year's Easter Pilgrimage.
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"Currently there is no change to plans for HCPT's summer 2020 pilgrimages to Lourdes."
The French Ministry of Health has decreed that all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces are cancelled in France for the time being.
Since 1858, there have been 69 verified miracles or cures in Lourdes.
"Those are the ones that we have absolutely certain medical evidence and we can stand over,” said Dr Michael Moran, a Belfast doctor who works at the shrine.
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