Italy targets the unvaccinated with a raft of new restrictions related to the Corona virus
The government has responded to the omicron-fueled wave of infections by passing new restrictions aimed at encouraging those who are resistant to the vaccine to receive their vaccines or increasingly keeping them away from recreational and even essential activities, such as taking a bus or subway to work.
However, Prime Minister Mario Draghi faced criticism for his government’s decision last week to mandate vaccination for anyone 50 and older.
Critics say the fine for non-compliance, which starts at €100 ($113), is too low to make defying the requirement hurt. But fines go up significantly – up to 1,600 euros (nearly $1,800) – for those in that age group who enter their workplaces starting in mid-February if they have not yet been vaccinated.
During a meeting with reporters on Monday, Draghi defended the vaccine’s commitment.
“The data tells us that those over 50 are at greater risk, and two-thirds of those who have not been vaccinated are in intensive care units,” the prime minister said.
Doctors have also warned that the influx of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks creates a risk that hospitals will not be able to perform regular surgeries or provide adequate care to patients without COVID-19.
Italy, where the coronavirus outbreak first appeared in Europe in February 2020, has vaccinated 86% of its population over the age of 12, and nearly 75% of those eligible have received a booster dose.
But two million of Italy’s 60 million people are currently testing positive, affecting basic services. School districts have complained that there are not enough teachers to reopen school doors, with many of them testing positive or in quarantine.
And two southern regions, Sicily and Campania that includes Naples, defied the government by keeping their schools closed on Monday. But after a parent challenged the closure in court, orders were issued to reopen schools in Campania on Tuesday.
Draghi said he wanted to break from the previous government’s decision to close schools for the first year of the pandemic, describing schools as “essential to democracy”.
“We want to be careful, very careful, but also to minimize the economic and social impacts, but above all on the children, who have suffered the most” due to prolonged school closures, Draghi said.
And the prime minister added, “Young people go to pizzerias in the evening, and they do sports all afternoon.” “It makes no sense to close schools and not close the rest” of society.
Italian teachers and about 99% of them must be vaccinated, according to Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi.
Frances Demilio contributed to this report.
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