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Coronavirus-sceptic businessman Briatore hospitalized with virus

FILE PHOTO: Former Renault F1 principal Flavio Briatore gestures in the paddock after the qualifying session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix at the Monza circuit September 10, 2011. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - Flavio Briatore, one of Italy’s most flamboyant businessmen who lambasted restrictions aimed at curbing the COVID-19 epidemic, was hospitalized on Tuesday after testing positive for the disease, his staff said in a statement.

Briatore, 70, became famous as a Formula 1 team manager in the 1990s and 2000s, and mentored world champion drivers Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

He was taken to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Sunday after coming down with a fever, his staff said in a statement. It added that his condition was “good and stable”.

Briatore owns the Billionaire nightclub on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia and last week fiercely condemned a local mayor who had imposed limits on discos in an effort to stamp out a jump in the number of new coronavirus cases.

“It breaks my heart to see an economy slaughtered by people who have done sod all,” Briatore said on a video posted on Instagram.

His club is now seen as a coronavirus hotspot with more than 60 staff members and guests testing positive in recent days.

Briatore has met a number of well-known personalities in recent days and played a game of soccer with celebrities on Aug. 15. One of his fellow players, the manager of Serie A soccer club Sinisa Mihajlovic, said at the weekend that he had the virus.

Briatore also met former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi according to a post on Instagram. Berlusconi said on Tuesday that he had taken a test and did not have COVID.

Before the summer, Sardinia was one of the Italian regions least affected by the epidemic. But it has seen a sharp increase in cases in August as tourists from all over the country descended on the island for their holidays.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Alexandra Hudson

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