Former Italian PM Berlusconi tests positive for coronavirus

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, this too has happened to me, but I carry on fighting,” the 83-year-old media magnate reportedly told supporters in a video meeting Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Berlusconi’s staff said he will remain in quarantine in his house in the town of Arcore, north of Milan, according to Reuters During his isolation, he will provide remote support for candidates in his Forza Italia party. Local elections are slated for Sept. 20-21.

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The former prime minister’s personal physician, Alberto Zangrillo, told Italian media that Berlusconi has no symptoms and sought a test after taking a recent vacation to Sardinia. The island has seen a spike in cases of the virus since reopening for summer tourism.

Flavio Briatore, a Berlusconi friend and associate who owns a Sardinian nightclub, tested positive in August. The hospital where Briatore was admitted said he has "hosted thousands of guests in August, including hundreds of Italian and international VIPs,” according to the Guardian. At least 60 cases have been connected to the nightclub on the island’s Emerald Coast.

Italy was the epicenter of the virus in Europe earlier this year. After more than 270,000 confirmed cases and 35,500 deaths, the pandemic receded, but case numbers have begun to climb over the past month. Public health officials have blamed the resumption of nightlife and vacation activities for the spike.

“I hope he will fight this battle with the strength that has always distinguished him,” said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, a former leader of the rival Five Star Movement party, according to Reuters.

Berlusconi served as prime minister in four different governments, including from 1994-1995, 2001-2006 and 2008-2011