Democracy in Action: Italy Makes Vaccines Mandatory for Everyone Over 50

 

 

Italy’s government said Wednesday that it would make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for everyone over the age of 50 in a bid to battle surging infections.

The move first emerged in a draft decree on Wednesday as a cabinet meeting on new curbs was still ongoing.

According to the decree, the measure would be immediately effective and run until June 15.

The measure was later confirmed by Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi, who said during the cabinet meeting: ‘We want to slow down the curve of contagion and encourage Italians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so.’

The move makes Italy one of very few European countries to take similar steps.

The decree also said 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, non-essential 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.

Mr 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 move 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 multi-party 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 hospitalised with Covid 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 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 case load 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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