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Coronavirus: Italy ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi in hospital

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image copyrightAFP

image captionBerlusconi dominated Italian politics in the 1990s

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, aged 83, is in hospital with early-stage double pneumonia after testing positive for coronavirus, the Italian news agency Ansa reports.

He spent the night in hospital in Milan for checks, having tested positive on Wednesday.

Earlier his right-wing Forza Italia party said his condition was not a cause for concern, and “he is fine”.

The media tycoon’s partner and two of his children also tested positive.

Berlusconi has been in self-isolation with his 30-year-old partner, Marta Fascina, at his villa in Arcore near Milan, after holidaying in Sardinia.

The infection rate in Sardinia – famous for its Emerald Coast beaches – is higher than in much of Italy.

“A small precautionary hospitalisation was needed to monitor the progress of Covid-19 but he is fine,” said Forza Italia senator Licia Ronzulli.

Berlusconi was transferred to an isolation ward at San Raffaele Hospital. Double pneumonia – inflammation of both lungs – is a common complication with Covid patients. The disease is generally more severe among the elderly and those with other medical conditions.

Earlier his personal doctor Alberto Zangrillo described him as asymptomatic.

Berlusconi sent a phone message to party activists in Genoa on Thursday saying “I’m continuing to work as best I can on the current election campaign”. Separately, he said he did not know how he had caught the virus.

Italy will hold regional elections on 21-22 September, which had to be postponed at the height of the pandemic in Italy in spring.

image copyrightEPA

image captionItaly has introduced swab tests for people arriving on the mainland from Sardinia

Last month Berlusconi hosted businessman Flavio Briatore at his luxury Sardinia villa.

Mr Briatore, who tested positive for coronavirus in late August, owns a nightclub on the island called Billionaire and used to run the Benetton Formula One racing team.

Mr Berlusconi, a billionaire media tycoon, served as Italian prime minister four times and last year was elected to the European Parliament.

His career has been dogged by sex scandals and allegations of corruption. He was convicted of tax fraud in 2013 and ejected from the Italian Senate. But later his ban from public office was lifted.

media captionBerlusconi’s handshake advice for BBC reporter

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