Italy to make COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for over-50s

To ease the pressure on health care and reduce fatalities, Italy is set to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people aged 50 and above, a draft decree showed on Wednesday as a Cabinet meeting on new curbs was still ongoing, News.Az reports citing Reuters. 

According to the draft seen by Reuters, the measure would be immediately effective and run until June 15. If confirmed, it would make Italy one of very few European countries to take similar steps.

The draft also says that from the start of February until the end of March only people with proof of vaccination or recent infection will be able to enter public offices, nonessential shops, banks, post offices and hairdressers.

Italy has registered more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest number in Europe after Britain.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government had already made vaccination mandatory for teachers and health workers, and since October last year, all employees have had to be vaccinated or show a negative test before entering the workplace.

Refusal results in suspension from work without pay, but not dismissal.

Wednesday's draft toughens this up for over-50s by removing the option of taking a test rather than vaccination. Those flouting the rule, effective from Feb. 15, risk a fine of 600 euros to 1,500 euros ($1,697.85).

The measures currently before Cabinet have triggered frictions within Draghi's multiparty coalition.

Ministers from the right-wing League issued a statement distancing themselves from the over-50 vaccine rule, calling it "without scientific foundation, considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are well over 60."

Elsewhere in Europe, Austria has announced plans to make vaccination mandatory for those over 14 years old from next month, while in neighboring Greece it will be compulsory for over-60s from Jan. 16.

Italy was hit later than several northern European countries by the highly contagious omicron variant, but its caseload has risen steadily in recent weeks, with growing pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.

It has seen an average of more than 150 deaths per day over the last two weeks, with 231 fatalities on Wednesday and 259 on Tuesday.

Wednesday registered 189,109 new infections, the highest number in Italy since the start of the pandemic.


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