Saying he felt “caged,” Pope Francis delivered his blessing over the internet from inside the Vatican on Sunday, instead of from a window, to stop crowds gathering during Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak.

He did, however, go to the window and wave silently to several hundred people in the huge square, which often draws tens of thousands of people. Most kept a safe distance from each other as they watched the pope deliver the address on four mega-screens.

“It’s a bit strange this Angelus prayer today with the pope caged in the library, but I see you and I am close to you,” he said. It was the first time that Francis had skipped giving the blessing and reading an address from the window since his election in 2013, apart from times he was travelling outside Rome.

The Press Association reported that 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 been severely impacted by the virus, forcing the Vatican to take extra precautions.

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