Italy’s Berlusconi combative after hospital stays

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Sunday that he was doing better after repeated hospital stays in recent months and would remain active in politics.

Italy's Berlusconi combative after hospital stays
Former Italian PM Berlusconi. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

“Fortunately I’m doing better, but the doctors won’t let me take part in public events yet. Nevertheless, I promise to be with you soon,” the 84-year-old told a meeting of his Forza Italia party by phone, according to media reports.

Berlusconi’s four hospital stays this year – most recently in May – were prompted by complications from his coronavirus infection in 2020.

He spent several days in a Monaco hospital in January for a heart arrythmia, while in September he was treated for a lung infection linked to Covid-19.

But the billionaire media mogul insisted that “we are still moved by the love and civic passion for our country that we brought into politics 27 years ago, and with which we still look to the future”.

“I’m still in the game.. you know me, I’ve never let myself be discouraged by any kind of obstacle,” he added.

Berlusconi offered a slew of political proposals, including a merger between Forza Italia, the League led by Matteo Salvini and the Brothers of Italy (FDI) led by Giorgia Meloni into a single right-wing force at the next parliamentary elections.

While some observers have seen his grip on the party slackening given his age and health problems, he said that “whatever Forza Italia’s decision, it’s me that will take it in concert with our leadership”.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”