Italy’s flamboyant former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was in hospital Friday after testing positive for the coronavirus, the latest high-profile figure to contract the disease.
The 83-year-old media tycoon is being treated for a lung infection at San Raffaele hospital in Milan where he was admitted on Thursday night, his personal physician said.
Berlusconi had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week after returning from a holiday at his luxury villa on Sardinia’s jet-set Emerald Coast.
His doctor Alberto Zangrillo said at a press conference on Friday that his condition was “encouraging” and that he was not intubated or on a ventilator.
The billionaire is “a patient at risk because of his age and previous illnesses,” the doctor said, adding that he should remain in hospital for “a few days”.
But he admitted: “Berlusconi’s mood is not the best,” saying that he had to insist that he be admitted to hospital.
– ‘Continue the battle’ –
Berlusconi, who has had a long but scandal-plagued political career, announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was in quarantine at home.
Two of his children — daughter Barbara, 36, and son Luigi, 31 — have also contracted the virus, as has his companion Marta Fascina.
Berlusconi, who once owned the AC Milan football club, had insisted on Wednesday that he would continue his political activities.
“I will be present in the electoral campaign with interviews on television and in newspapers,” he said during a video-conference held by the women’s movement of his Forza Italia party.
He said he recognised “the limitations imposed on my activities by testing positive for the coronavirus… but I will continue the battle”.
Regional elections are due to take place in two weeks as well as a referendum on reducing the number of Italian parliamentarians.
– Dating antics –
Well-wishes from both the right and left streamed in after reports he had contracted the disease — most likely while holidaying in Sardinia.
A first test proved negative, but he was tested again after some people he met on the Italian island — including businessman and former Formula One racing team Benetton managing director Flavio Briatore — tested positive, according to Italian news reports.
The twice-divorced Berlusconi, famed for his steamy dinner parties, grabbed headlines in March after he reportedly split from his longtime girlfriend Francesca Pascale to date Fascina, an MP from his party who is about 53 years his junior.
At the time, the dating antics of the man at the centre of the famous “bunga-bunga” soirées brought Italians a welcome distraction as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the country.
In June, he announced in local media he aimed for a return to Italian football’s top table for the first time since selling AC Milan, after his new club Monza was promoted to Italy’s Serie B.
– ‘Four times 20’ –
Berlusconi is the latest in a line of celebrities who have contracted the coronavirus since it was first discovered in Wuhan City, in China in December last year.
The list includes Paris Saint-Germain football players including Brazilian star Neymar, as well as movie stars Tom Hanks and Robert Pattinson, whom Hollywood trade publications said contracted the disease while filming the latest Batman movie in Britain.
The disease has killed more than 860,000 people globally since the outbreak emerged, with more than 26 million cases registered.
More than 35,500 people have died in Italy – one of the first countries in Europe to be hit – latest figures said Friday. The country, where almost 273,000 cases have been reported, emerged in May from a strict two-month lockdown.
Berlusconi’s hospitalisation marks a return to the San Raffaele facility where he has been receiving treatment for years.
In the spring of 2019, he was operated on for an intestinal obstruction at the same facility where he underwent open-heart surgery in June 2016.
Berlusconi, known for his penchant for younger women, in the past used his vitality as a political argument.
“Basically we are not really 80, but four times 20,” he said.