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Italy PM to break silence on covid vaccine mandate for over 50s

President Mattarella signed Italy's new covid decree into law on Friday night.

Italy’s premier Mario Draghi is to hold a press conference on Monday 10 January to explain the government’s controversial move to make the covid vaccine mandatory for the over 50s.

The prime minister's decision to face questions from journalists follows "days of reflection", reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, amid tensions within the coalition government and public opposition to the "undemocratic" vaccine mandate.

It will be Draghi's first press conference since he spoke to reporters on 22 December, when he defined himself as a "grandfather at the service of the institutions" after being asked multiple times if he wished to take over from Sergio Mattarella as president of Italy.

Draghi has defended the government's latest sweeping anti-covid measures, which will affect all public and private workers from 15 February, as a bid to "slow down the growth of the contagion curve and push Italians who still aren’t vaccinated to do so.”

“We are acting in particular on age groups that are most at risk of hospitalisation" - Draghi said in a statement earlier this week - "to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives."

There are currently 5.3 million unvaccinated people in Italy over the age of 12; of these some 2.1 million are over the age of 50, the government announced on Friday.

The vaccine mandate, one of the strictest in Europe, states that unvaccinated workers aged 50 or over can be suspended from work without pay, while unvaccinated over 50s who are unemployed also risk sanctions.

Draghi is expected to outline the reasons behind the government's move on Monday, the same day that Italy's new Super Green Pass rules come into force in restaurants, hotels and on public transport.

It is also the same day that Italy's schools reopen after the Christmas break, with new covid protocols, and the same day that the number of regions in covid 'yellow' zones rises to 15 with the addition of Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Valle d'Aosta.

Vaccinations were already complusory in Italy for healthcare workers, teachers, police and the military, along with the recently added category of university staff.

The Green Pass system has been in place in the workplace since October, requiring all workers to show proof of vaccination or a negative covid test.

However under the new Super Green Pass rules, the over-50s will no longer be allowed to go to work by presenting a negative test result.

From 15 February all workers over 50 must present proof that they have been vaccinated or recovered from covid-19.

On Friday there was a backlash over reports that over-50s caught without the vaccine would face a one-off "mini fine" of €100, a prospect described by prominent virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter as a "grotesque farce... roughly equivalent to two parking fines".

Italian nurse Martina Benedetti - whose bruised face from wearing a mask during gruelling hospital shifts became a symbol of Italy's fight against covid in March 2020 - described the €100 fine on Facebook as "the price of our health. Of our lives. Of the sacrifices we have been making for two years."

Palazzo Chigi responded to the controversy, reports news agency ANSA, clarifying that the fines for those who violate the new vaccine mandate will reach up to €1,500, recalling that workers over 50 without the Super Green Pass will face suspension from work without pay and fines from €600 to €1,500.

In addition, Palazzo Chigi pointed out that there are already sanctions in place from €400 to €1,000 for all citizens, regardless of age, who are caught violating Green Pass or Super Green Pass rules.

The Super Green Pass is a "reinforced" version of the "basic" Green Pass and can only be obtained by those who have been vaccinated or recovered from covid-19.

The Green Pass is a digital or paper certificate showing that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from covid-19.

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