Italy imposes compulsory vaccination for over-50s to curb record Covid cases

Italy’s daily new cases rose to a record 189,109

A woman receives a dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Rome. Reuters

Italy has made vaccination compulsory for people aged over 50 and further reduced what the unvaccinated can do in its bid to fight a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The decision came on the day that the country's daily coronavirus cases rose to a record number of 189,109.

Hospital and intensive-care admissions are also creeping up, even though they remain well below the peaks of 2020.

“We want to slow down the growth of the contagion curve and push Italians who still aren’t vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a cabinet meeting.

“We are acting in particular on age groups that are most at risk of hospitalisation, to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives.”

About 78 per cent of Italy’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus and 36 per cent have received a booster shot.

It is unclear whether the over-50s will be penalised if they do not get vaccinated. But health minister Roberto Speranza said they will be checked - from February 15 - to see if they have a “super green pass” before they can enter their workplaces. That certification is reserved to those who are fully vaccinated or who have recently recovered from Covid-19.

It has also been decided that anyone working in universities must be vaccinated, regardless of age. Currently, vaccination is required for school teachers, healthcare workers, members of the military and police forces, regardless of age.

The Omicron variant is sending infections soaring all over Europe, with countries reintroducing or hardening restrictions to stem the flow of the virus.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said vaccines will not be made mandatory, even as anti-vaxxers spread disinformation about the shot.

"I want a voluntary approach in this country, and we're going to keep a voluntary approach ... Other European countries are going for coercion," he said.

"But what a tragedy that we've got all this pressure on the NHS (National Health Service) ... and you've got people out there spouting complete nonsense about a vaccination ... And I think it's time that I, (and the) government, call them out on what they're doing. It is absolutely wrong. It's totally counterproductive."

France hit another record on Wednesday, with 332,252 new cases, and the government warned that the current “supersonic” infection wave will last for days.

As tension simmers before Italian politicians pick a successor to President Sergio Mattarella, a process that may include compulsory testing in parliament, the government is divided on how to battle the pandemic.

The anti-migrant League party of Matteo Salvini, part of the Five-Star Movement, has opposed a push to make vaccination compulsory for all workers.

The government decided late last month to lift its quarantine requirement completely for people who come into contact with a Covid-19 case, as long as they have had three vaccine doses.

It also decided to cut the isolation time to five days from seven for vaccinated people whose most recent dose was more than 120 days before exposure.

The unvaccinated are still required to isolate for 10 days.

Updated: January 6th 2022, 1:57 PM