Draghi says school is "fundamental for democracy" and must be "protected, not abandoned."
Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has singled out the unvaccinated as being responsible for "most of the problems" facing Italy in its fight against covid-19.
The premier was speaking at a news conference on Monday evening to explain the government's compulsory vaccine mandate for the over-50s.
The controversial move, which takes effect on 15 February, comes amid rising covid infections and increased pressure on Italian hospitals.
Draghi said the vaccine mandate is based on the latest data, stating that the over-50s are at greater risk and pointing out that unvaccinated people currently account for two thirds of all covid-19 patients in Italy's intensive care units.
The prime minister made an "umpteenth invitation" for unvaccinated Italians to get the covid vaccine, as well as the booster shot.
Draghi, who refused to answer questions about whether he wishes to take over from outgoing Italian president Sergio Mattarella early next month, also stressed the "fundamental" importance of schools staying open.
The premier's comments came the same day that school children in Italy returned to the classroom after the Christmas break, with new covid protocols in place.
Stating that it makes "no sense" to shut schools and keep everything else open, the prime minister said: “There are also practical reasons: students are asked to stay at home, then they play sports all afternoon and go to the pizzeria?"
Draghi acknowledged that there "will probably be an increase" in the number of classes forced into remote learning but said a "generalised use" of this teaching practice "must be rejected".
The intervention by Draghi coincided with the tightening of rules around the government's Super Green Pass, the digital certificate which can only be obtained by those who are vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19.
Already required in cinemas, theatres and stadiums, the Super Green Pass cannot be obtained by a negative covid test result, meaning that it excludes people who are unvaccinated.
Until 31 March the Super Green Pass is now also required on public transport, restaurants (indoors and outdoors), hotels, ski lifts, museums and swimming pools.
The Italian Surgery Society (SIC) said on Monday that surgeries in Italy's regions are down between 50 and 80 per cent, reports news agency ANSA, with intensive care units "largely occupied by mainly No Vax patients."
On Monday Italy registered 101,762 new covid cases and 227 deaths over the previous 24 hours, with 1,606 covid patients in intensive care, up 11 from the day before.
According to the latest official data, more than 86 per cent of people in Italy aged 12 and above are fully vaccinated, while 59 per cent have also received the third dose or booster shot.
For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy (in English) see the health ministry website. Photo credit: Leggo