Italy’s ex-PM Berlusconi hospitalized with COVID-19, but vows to keep campaigning ahead of regional race


    Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been admitted to Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

    The hospital confirmed Friday that Berlusconi checked into the hospital late Thursday and was under observation. The hospital did not provide information about Berlusconi’s condition when being contacted by Xinhua, but an official did say Berlusconi was not in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

    The development came as the coronavirus infection rate in Italy is on the rise. The country saw more than 1,000 infections a day in nine of the past 13 days through Thursday, a figure that had previously not been surpassed since May 12.

    According to Deborah Bergamini, a member of parliament from the Forza Italia party Berlusconi founded, the hospital visit is mostly precautionary.

    “He has a small cough, and obviously, because of his age, it’s safer for him to be taken care of in the hospital,” Bergamini told state broadcaster RAI on Friday.

    On Mediaset, the broadcaster Berlusconi controls, Forza Italia Senator Licia Ronzulli called the decision to keep Berlusconi at the hospital “precautionary.”

    Berlusconi’s staff confirmed he tested positive for the coronavirus late Wednesday. He was reported at the time to be asymptomatic and self-isolated at his villa in Arcore, a town just outside of Milan. Media reports on Friday said that Berlusconi went to the hospital for an exam late Thursday when a CT scan showed signs of bilateral pneumonia, a common complication for coronavirus patients. Doctors suggested he stay.

    Berlusconi is believed to have contracted the virus in Sardinia, where he has a sprawling vacation villa. Over the last three weeks, Sardinia has emerged as one of Italy’s largest coronavirus hotspots. His girlfriend and two adult children also tested positive, according to media reports.

    Berlusconi is widely considered to be the most influential Italian politician of the last quarter-century.

    The Forza Italia party led by Berlusconi has candidates standing in six regional elections set to take place later this month. In a social media post on Thursday, he vowed to continue working despite his illness.

    “I am fine and I will keep working,” he wrote. “I will participate in every possible way for his election campaign.”

    Hospital officials did not say how long Berlusconi would be hospitalized, though Italian media reports speculated he would be kept in the San Raffaele Hospital’s isolation ward at least until his case of pneumonia subsides.

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