Italy's Berlusconi leaves hospital after 'dangerous' COVID-19 battle

MILAN (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left hospital on Monday after recovering from the new coronavirus, saying he had survived “the most dangerous challenge” of his life.

“I said to myself, with satisfaction, ‘You have got away with it again’,” a smiling Berlusconi told reporters at the gates of Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, where he was admitted on Sept. 3, after testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The 83-year-old media tycoon developed double pneumonia and was considered a high-risk patient because of his age and underlying health conditions, including heart problems.

Berlusconi, dressed in a dark suit and wearing a shirt and tie, said the viral load from his swab was “the highest among the tens of thousands” of patients treated at the hospital.

He is believed to have caught the virus while on holiday in his villa on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and he urged people to take the ailment seriously.

“Each one of us is exposed to the risk of infecting others. I repeat my call for maximum responsibility from everyone,” Berlusconi said.

He is expected to remain in isolation for several more days in his villa in Arcore, outside Milan.

Berlusconi remains the head of the centre-right Forza Italia party, but is not expected to take part in rallies for a raft of regional elections slated for Sept. 20-21.

His illness coincided with a period of heightened speculation over the future of his family media group Mediaset, after a European court ruled in favour of French rival Vivendi in a long-running dispute with the Italian broadcaster.

Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Gavin Jones and Bernadette Baum