Italian president says covid vaccine a 'moral and civic duty'

Mattarella says it is the virus that limits freedom, not the rules in place to defeat it.

Italy's president Sergio Mattarella has said that getting vaccinated against covid-19 is a "moral and civic duty," warning that the "pandemic is not yet behind us."

The head of state was speaking at the traditional Ventaglia ceremony last night before parliament's summer recess, the last of his seven-year term as president, reports news agency ANSA.

"The virus has mutated and it has become even more contagious" - said Mattarella - "The longer it circulates, the more frequent and dangerous its mutations may become."

"We are only able to contain it thanks to vaccines" - the president added - "The vaccine does not make us invulnerable but it greatly reduces the possibility of contracting the virus, its circulation and the danger it poses."

Mattarella said he hoped "a sense of community, a sense of collective responsibility, will prevail." Without this, he said: "We risk a new paralysis of social and economic life; new, widespread closures; further, heavy consequences for families and businesses."

The president's remarks come amid protests around Italy over the government's newly expanded Green Pass, a covid vaccine certificate that will be required - from 6 August - for indoor dining in restaurants and bars as well as for access to museums, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools and sports stadiums.

The intervention from Mattarella, who received the first dose of the covid vaccine in March, followed a call last week from premier Mario Draghi urging people to get vaccinated.

“An invitation not to get vaccinated is an invitation to die, or to let others die" - said Draghi -" No vaccines mean a new lockdown.”

Mattarella's words echoed a call from Pope Francis in January when the pontiff said it was an "ethical duty" to take the vaccine, describing opposition to it as a "suicidal denial that I cannot explain."

Parallel to the Green Pass protests, many regions reported a surge in vaccination bookings in the days following Draghi's appeal.

Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday that almost two-thirds of the Italian population over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the covid vaccine.

Speranza warned however that covid variants, including the Delta one, have created "a delicate situation" that requires "the utmost caution."

Details about the Green Pass can be found - in Italian - on the Certificazione Verde website while for official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website.

Photo ANSA