Europe

Italy makes Covid vaccinations compulsory for over-50s

Italy has made it obligatory for people aged 50 or more to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as the country scrambles to ease pressure on hospitals and reduce deaths amid a dramatic surge in infections.

The measure is among the toughest vaccine mandates in Europe and takes effect immediately. The move was unanimously supported by ministers despite divisions between the parties that make up prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Italy also tightened its workplace vaccine rules and from 15 February, people aged over 50 who are in jobs, either in the public or private sector, will have to present a health pass proving immunisation or recovery from Covid-19.

Hospitals are under increasing pressure because of the Omicron variant. Italy registered 189,109 new infections on Wednesday and 231 fatalities, bringing the death toll to 138,276, the highest in Europe after the UK.

Health minister Roberto Speranza said that two-thirds of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units were unvaccinated, as were 50% of the patients being treated in ordinary wards.

“We are making these choices in order to restrict the unvaccinated as much as possible, as this is what is causing the burden on our hospital system,” Speranza told the Italian media after the cabinet meeting.

Business leaders had urged the government to make the vaccine mandatory for all workers over fears that the latest wave of the pandemic could slow down the economy.

Draghi had sought to toughen up the vaccine mandate last week, but the cabinet failed to agree on a measure and so the talks were postponed.

“We want to slow the growth of the infection curve and push Italians who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Draghi said at the start of the cabinet meeting, according to the news agency Ansa. “We are targeting the age groups which are most at risk of hospitalisation in order to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives. At the same time, we want to keep schools and businesses open.”

Obligatory vaccines were already in place for health workers, teachers and the police.

Austria is making vaccines obligatory for the over-14s from February, while Germany is planning to introduce a vaccine mandate for adults.

Italy’s latest move follows the tightening of measures regarding the so-called super green pass last week. From Monday, people will no longer be able to dine in or outside a restaurant, go to the gym or use public transport unless they can prove immunisation or recovery from Covid.

SOURCE