Draghi says extending Italy's state of emergency was necessary to deal with situation.
Italian premier Mario Draghi said on Wednesday that Italy is facing into Christmas "more prepared and safer" than last year, largely due to the nation's covid vaccination drive.
Addressing parliament ahead of this week's EU Council summit, the prime minister urged caution, particularly in relation to the threat posed by the Omicron variant, and urged everyone to get vaccinated.
Draghi said that Omicron infections are "on the rise throughout Europe: in the last week, within the European Union, there have been an average of 57 cases per day per every 100,000 inhabitants. In Italy the incidence is lower, almost half, but it is still rising."
"The arrival of winter and the spread of the Omicron variant - which early data indicates is much more contagious than those prevalent so far - require us to pay the utmost attention in managing the pandemic", he stated.
Draghi said that getting vaccinated is "essential to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our community. And it is essential to keep open the economy, schools, venues for socialising, as we have been able to do up to now", adding: "We will not really be protected until everyone has been vaccinated."
The premier also used figures to put the situation into context compared to last Christmas when there were multiple restrictions and closures in force due to the pandemic.
"The total number of people currently positive with the virus is 297,000" - he said - "Twelve months ago it was 675,000, despite the level of restrictions being much higher."
Draghi said the number of people hospitalised with covid in Italy is currently 8,026, compared to 30,860 on 14 December 2020.
He added that in the last seven days there was an average of 95 covid-related deaths a day compared to 629 in the same period last year.
Draghi underlined that more than 85 per cent of Italy's population over the age of 12 has received two doses of the covid vaccine and about 20 per cent have also had the booster.
"I want to encourage once again those who have not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible" - Draghi said - "and those who have taken the first two doses to get the third as soon as they can."
Draghi said the recent extension of the government's state of emergency powers until 31 March was required "to have all the tools necessary to deal with the situation".
The premier's remarks coincided with a covid vaccination mandate for Italy's teachers, police and military, with effect from 15 December.
Today, 16 December, Italy expands its vaccination drive nationwide to include children aged 5-11.
For official information relating to the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website. Photo credit: Sky TG24
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