Catholic Churches in Britain are set to ban wine from mass in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

This comes after Pope Francis, 83, has cancelled events in the basilica after being taken ill.

Bishops plan to tell priests across the country to stop giving out communion wine from a shared chalice as the threat of a pandemic rises.

They are also planning to suspend the Sign Of The Peace gesture where parishioners shake hands during services.

A church insider said: “Bishops have known since the outbreak worsened, and the panic that has gone with that, it is only a matter of time before these measures will have to be introduced.

Worshippers were face masks to the Ash Wednesday service held in Rome

“It is not the first time such a ban has had to be enforced and we have to do what is best for our communities.”

During an afternoon Ash Wednesday service in Rome Pope Francis appeared to have a cold and spoke with a hoarse voice.

The pontiff, who had shown solidarity with coronavirus sufferers during his Ash Wednesday service said: “I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health-care workers who are caring for them.”

Pope Francis will be carrying out the rest of his schedule in his residence, the Vatican said on Thursday.

"Because of a slight indisposition, he preferred to stay inside Santa Marta," the Vatican said, referring to the Vatican guesthouse where the 83-year-old pontiff lives.

"All other commitments will go ahead regularly," spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

It comes as the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto are locked down, with Italy reporting more than 500 infections and 14 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

The last time the chalice was withdrawn and the sign of the peace suspended was during the swine flu outbreak in 2009.

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales had already advised Catholics with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from receiving eucharist on the tongue or wine from the chalice.

But they are now set to extend it to whole congregations.

However, they warned: “Should that become necessary, more detailed pastoral care guidance will be issued.”

Parishes had already stepped up cleaning regimes in churches and told priests and other members of the clergy to keep their hands thoroughly washed at all time.

Bishop Paul Mason, the Bishops’ Conference’s lead on healthcare, said previously: “As Catholics, we reiterate the commitment of the Church to health care ministry.

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“Ensuring we disrupt the spread of the virus is core to effective mission.

“Part of this is reassurance that we have no cause for fear.”

Many places of worship have already been shut down in countries at the centre of the outbreak like Italy and South Korea.