ROME (AFP) – Italy’s government said on Wednesday that it would make vaccination against COVID-19 compulsory from February 15 for everyone over the age of 50, in a bid to battle surging infections.
“We want to slow down the curve of contagion and encourage Italians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during a Cabinet meeting at which the measure was adopted, according to a statement.
“We are working in particular on the age groups that are most at risk of being hospitalised, to reduce pressure on hospital to save lives,” he added.
The new decree obliges people over 50 who do not work to get vaccinated, and those who do work to obtain a vaccine pass – which effectively covers all over 50s.
In another statement, the government said that “the vaccine pass will be necessary for people over 50 in the public and private sectors to access their workplace from February 15”.
Out of Italy’s 59 million people, 28 million are over the age of 50, according to the Istat national statistics agency.
Late last month the government said that from January 10 a vaccination pass would be required to use public transport and access hotels, restaurant terraces and gyms.
Previously a health pass giving proof of vaccination – or a recent negative test – had been required.
As in much of Western Europe, Italy has seen its COVID cases soar in recent days, recording 189,000 on Wednesday, up from more than 170,000 on Tuesday.
Italy was the European country first hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and still has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 138,000.