Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to Italy's vaccine mandate as "inadmissible” and “unfounded”, as 1.9 million people face fines for refusing the jab.

Italy's constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in
People protest in Rome in January 2022 against vaccine requirements intended to stem the spread of Covid-19. Italy's Constitutional Court on Thursday upheld the vaccine mandates introduced in 2021. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Judges were asked this week to determine whether or not vaccine mandates introduced by the previous government during the pandemic – which applied to healthcare and school staff as well as over-50s – breached the fundamental rights set out by Italy’s constitution.

Italy became the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

The Constitutional Court upheld the law in a ruling published on Thursday, saying it considered the government’s requirement for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated during the pandemic period neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.

Judges ruled other questions around the issue as inadmissible “for procedural reasons”, according to a court statement published on Thursday.

This was the first time the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on the issue, after several regional courts previously dismissed challenges to the vaccine obligation on constitutional grounds.

A patient being administered a Covid jab.

Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

One Lazio regional administrative court ruled in March 2022 that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”.

Such appeals usually centre on the question of whether the vaccine requirement can be justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

READ ALSO: Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Meanwhile, fines kicked in from Thursday, December 1st, for almost two million people in Italy who were required to get vaccinated under the mandate but refused.

This includes teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers, and the over 50s, who face fines of 100 euros each under rules introduced in 2021.

Thursday was the deadline to justify non-compliance with the vaccination mandate due to health reasons, such as having contracted Covid during that period.

Italy’s health minister on Friday however appeared to suggest that the new government may choose not to enforce the fines.

“It could cost more for the state to collect the fines” than the resulting income, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci told Radio Rai 1.

He went on to say that it was a matter for the Economy and Finance Ministry, but suggested that the government was drawing up an amendment to the existing law.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

The League, one of the parties which comprises the new hard-right government, is pushing for fines for over-50s to be postponed until June 30th 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised a clear break with her predecessor’s health policies, after her Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic in 2021 when it was in opposition.

At the end of October, shortly after taking office, the new government allowed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work earlier than planned after being suspended for refusing the Covid vaccine.

There has been uncertainty about the new government’s stance after the deputy health minister in November cast doubt on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, saying he was “not for or against” vaccination.

Italy’s health ministry continues to advise people in at-risk groups to get a booster jab this winter, and this week stressed in social media posts that vaccination against Covid-19 and seasonal flu remained “the most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially the elderly and frail”.

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Mad about the roi: a brief history of British royals’ visits to France

Despite warnings of pension reform protests during King Charles III's impending three-day visit, France, which beheaded its own king and queen, has a long-running love affair with the British royal family that has endured ups-and-downs in the cross-Channel relationship.

Mad about the roi: a brief history of British royals' visits to France

From Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II, visiting British monarchs have received a warm welcome in Paris over the past 170 years.

Thawed relations
In August 1855, Queen Victoria made a state visit to Paris, the first by a British monarch in 400 years.

After spending centuries at war Britain and France were fighting together against the Russian Empire in Crimea.

In a landmark moment, Victoria visited Napoleon I’s tomb at Les Invalides in Paris. “I stood on the arm of Napoleon III, before the coffin of his Uncle, our bitterest foe! I, the granddaughter of that King, who hated Napoleon most,” she wrote in her journal.

The grande finale was a sumptuous supper and a ball for 1,200 guests hosted by the emperor at the Palace of Versailles.

READ ALSO ‘No plans’ to change Charles III visit to strike-hit France

Entente Cordiale
Two years after Queen Victoria’s death her son Edward VII visited France in the spring of 1903, amid renewed tensions over the two European powers’ colonial rivalry.

President Emile Loubet welcomed him with great pomp, but he had to work hard to win over an initially hostile French public.

On April 8, 1904, his efforts bore fruit in the form of the Entente Cordiale, a landmark treaty settling Britain and France’s colonial disputes.

Clouds of war

Europe was on the brink of World War I when King George V and Queen Mary visited Paris in April 1914.

As the royal motorcade passed, Parisians lined avenues paved with the colours of the Union flag.

During a state dinner at the Elysee presidential palace, President Raymond Poincare hailed the Franco-British Entente as “one of the soundest guarantees of European equilibrium”.

Long live the King
In July 1938, Europe was again on the threshold of war when King George VI  and Queen Elizabeth swept into Paris to cries of “Long live the king!”

George VI had ascended to the throne after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry a twice-divorced American, Wallis Warfield Simpson.

The visit came at a time of growing alarm in Paris and London at Nazi Germany’s war preparations.

For the traditional banquet at the Elysee Palace, Queen Elizabeth wore the “Koh I Noor”, the biggest diamond in the world.

READ ALSO Protest fears as security stepped up for King Charles’ visit to France

Queen of French hearts
Over her seven-decade reign, Queen Elizabeth II made five state visits to France, winning hearts with her command of the language, dry wit and what she called her “great affection for the French”.

Her first official visit as a newly-married 21-year-old princess in 1948 caused a sensation, with crowds lining the street to try to catch a glimpse of her and husband Prince Philip.

Her star power was still in evidence when she made her first state visit to France as queen in 1957. President Rene Coty pulled out all the stops, putting on a banquet at the
Louvre museum and sprucing up the banks of the Seine for Elizabeth’s river cruise.

As the years passed, her visits take on a more overtly diplomatic flavour, marking the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1972, the centenary of the Entente Cordiale in 2004 and the 70th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings in 2004.

Conveying his sympathy to the British people on her death last year, President Emmanuel Macron said: “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen.”