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COVID-19 VACCINES

PM Mario Draghi hits out at the unvaccinated for Italy’s Covid problems

Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged Italians Monday to get vaccinated against coronavirus, blaming those who were not for "most of the problems we facing", as Italy again tightened its Covid-19 rules.

A medical worker fills a syringe with a dose of a Comirnaty Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a new vaccination hub in Italy.
Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi has laid the blame for the latest rise in Covid infections at the feet of the unvaccinated. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

New restrictions came into force Monday barring the unvaccinated from restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, theatres, cinemas, sports events and public transport, with only those recently recovered from Covid-19 exempt.

The measures were introduced in the face of a sharp rise in infections in Italy, the first European country hit by coronavirus in early 2020, which has since recorded almost 140,000 Covid-19 deaths.

EXPLAINED: Where you need Italy’s Covid vaccine pass from Monday

At a press conference, Draghi emphasised that despite the rising cases – another 100,000 were reported on Monday – the situation was different from last winter when the vaccination campaign had yet to begin and lockdowns were required to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

“Most of the problems we are facing today depend on the fact that there are unvaccinated people,” he said.

“Unvaccinated people have a much higher chance of developing the disease and severe forms of the disease,” he said, saying they were putting hospitals under pressure – and urging “all the Italians who are not yet vaccinated to do so”.

More than 86 percent of people over the age of 12 in Italy are fully vaccinated, while 23 million of the 60-million-strong population have had a booster jab.

Vaccines are also open to children aged five and over.

The government is also making vaccines obligatory for the over 50s from next month. The new rules dictate that everyone currently aged 50 and over in Italy, as well as anyone due to turn 50 by June 15, 2022, is now required to get a Covid vaccine.

The majority of schools opened Monday for a new term despite calls from headteachers, the doctors’ union and some mayors to delay the return to class for at least two weeks.

READ ALSO: Back to school: What are Italy’s new Covid restrictions in classrooms?

Hundreds of councils across the country kept their schools closed, according to media reports, but Draghi repeated that keeping children in class was a priority.

“We want to be careful, very careful, but also try to minimise the economic and social effects and above all the effects on boys and girls who have been affected more than others by the closures, from a psychological and educational point of view,” he said.

Top virologist Massimo Galli at the Sacco de Milan hospital earlier warned opening schools was “imprudent and unjustified”, while public health expert Walter Ricciardi described the situation as “explosive”.

The high number of cases is also having an economic effect – Trenitalia said Monday it had cancelled 180 regional trains due to staff shortages.

The so-called Super Green Pass showing proof of vaccination or recent recovery is required in almost all public places and on public transport until March 31st, while FFP2 masks are mandatory in many places.

Calendar: When do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change?

Unvaccinated residents on Italy’s small islands, which had warned they risked being cast into “forced exile” by the new rules, have been permitted to travel with a negative Covid test until February 10th for health or educational reasons.

COVID-19 RULES

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.

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