Italy's Berlusconi breathing on his own despite COVID pneumonia

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, in hospital after contracting coronavirus, has mild pneumonia in both lungs but is breathing on his own, and his condition is not worrying, his doctor Alberto Zangrillo said on Friday.

Zangrillo said the infection had been caught at a very early stage.

“His clinical condition at the present time … is quiet and comforting,” Zangrillo told a news conference at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, which admitted Berlusconi late on Thursday, a day after the 83-year-old tested positive.

“The clinical indicators are reassuring and I am optimistic,” said the doctor.

Zangrillo, who stirred controversy in May when he said coronavirus was losing its potency, told reporters he had decided to hospitalize Berlusconi as a precautionary measure given his age and previous health problems.

The media tycoon underwent major heart surgery in 2016 and has also survived prostrate cancer.

Shares in the media company controlled by the Berlusconi family, Mediaset (MS.MI), rose as much as 11.7% on Friday with traders saying the market was speculating about potential ownership changes at the group if Berlusconi’s health worsens.

News of the hospitalization comes on the heels of an EU court ruling on Thursday which weakened Mediaset’s position in a legal spat with French investor Vivendi (VIV.PA).

Berlusconi took a coronavirus test on Wednesday after spending part of August at his villa on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, which has seen a recent, sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as tourists flocked there.

Italian newspapers have speculated Berlusconi might have been infected by his children. Two of them, Barbara and Luigi, were with him in Sardinia and were seen partying on other islands last month. Both have since tested positive.

Berlusconi’s latest partner, Marta Fascina, has also caught the virus, a party official said.

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When his party announced his illness on Wednesday, it said he did not have any symptoms. Berlusconi subsequently spoke via video link to a meeting of supporters on Thursday afternoon and acknowledged he had had a fever, but that it had passed.

“I no longer have fever, nor pain, I want to reassure everyone that I am quite well,” he said.

Italy, hit by one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19, contained the contagion after a peak in fatalities in March and April. But the number of new cases rose in August, with experts blaming gatherings associated with holidays and night life.

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