Italy extends COVID vaccine mandate to everyone over 50

ROME, Jan.5 (Reuters) – Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people over 50, one of the few European countries to take similar steps, in a bid to ease pressure on its health service. and reduce deaths. .

The measure takes effect immediately and will run until June 15.

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

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

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

Wednesday’s decree toughens this for workers over 50 by eliminating the option of taking a test instead of vaccination. It was not immediately clear what the penalty would be for those who violate the rule, starting on February 15.

The decree was approved after a two-and-a-half-hour cabinet meeting that saw friction within Draghi’s multi-party coalition.

“Today’s measures are aimed at keeping our hospitals running well while keeping schools and business open at the same time,” Draghi told the cabinet, according to his spokesman.

A man receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the day the government is expected to approve new rules for schools and the COVID-19 vaccine for workers, at the Music Auditorium from Rome, Italy, January 5, 2022. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane

The ministers of the right-wing League issued a statement distancing themselves from the rule of the vaccine for those over 50 years old, calling it “without scientific basis, considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalized with Covid are over 60 years old.”

The League managed to soften a draft decree that proposed that only people with proof of vaccination or recent infection could enter public offices, non-essential shops, banks, post offices and hairdressers.

The final decree ruled that these places will remain open to the unvaccinated as long as they can show a negative test.

Elsewhere in Europe, Austria has announced plans to make vaccination mandatory for those over 14 from next month, while in Greece it will be mandatory for those over 60 from January 16. Read more

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

It has seen an average of more than 150 deaths per day for the past two weeks, with 231 deaths on Wednesday and 259 on Tuesday. The count of 189,109 new infections on Wednesday was the highest since the start of the pandemic. read more

About 74% of Italians have received at least two vaccine injections and 6% have only received one injection, according to Our World in Data. About 35% have received a third “booster” injection.

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written by Gavin Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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