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Italy weighs up new covid restrictions as Omicron concerns grow

Italy vaccinates 52,000 children against covid-19 in first two days of vaccination programe.

Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday night that there is "an element of worry" within the government as the highly contagious Omicron covid variant sweeps across Europe.

Speranza, speaking on the popular television show Che Tempo Che Fa, called for "maximum caution" and urged people to "avoid gatherings as much as possible during the Christmas holidays."

The health minister confirmed that the government would evaluate imposing tougher measures to stem a new wave of covid-19 infections, at a meeting on 23 December, however he stressed that "no decisions have been taken" yet.

He did not go into details of the possible new restrictions which, according to reports in Italian media, could include extending compulsory vaccination to other categories of workers, making masks mandatory outdoors, and requiring covid tests for crowded venues such as night clubs, even for vaccinated people.

Speranza said that any new restrictions would take into account the "epidemiological data and also the scope of the Omicron variant", based on new studies being carried out on Monday 20 December.

The minister acknowledged that the numbers of covid cases in Italy are growing "even if they are still far better than other European countries" however he said it was "quite clear that there has been constant significant growth in recent weeks and that if it continues like this it could risk putting health services in difficulty."

Underlining the importance of getting the third 'booster' dose and wearing masks, Speranza announced that 52,000 children aged between 5 and 11 were vaccinated in the first two days after Italy's vaccination drive was expanded to kids last week.

The minister said this figure included his own two children, concluding: "Let's trust our scientists, let's trust our doctors, let's trust our pediatricians."

For official information in English on the covid-19 situation in Italy see the health ministry website.

Cover image: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, December 2021. Photo credit: VILTVART / Shutterstock.com.

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