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Italy set to tighten covid rules amid rise of Omicron

Italy sees increase in Omicron cases over weekend.

Italian premier Mario Draghi has convened a meeting with the government's covid 'control room', Palazzo Chigi announced, amid a rise in the number of cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus.

The topics up for discussion at the meeting on 23 December are set to include a tightening of Italy's existing covid restrictions, reports state broadcaster RAI, citing "informed" government sources.

The move, which will take into consideration the latest national and European covid data, comes after Italy's national health institute (ISS) said on Saturday that it had so far identified 84 Omicron cases, "growing strongly" from the 55 announced on Friday.

The highest number of Omicron cases were detected in the northern Lombardy region around Milan (33) and in the southern Campania region around Naples (20), with the rest spread out across the country including eight cases in the Lazio region around Rome, reports news agency ANSA.

The new restrictions being discussed could include a further extension of the covid vaccination obligation to certain categories of workers with greater contact with the public, ANSA reports.

Last week the government added teachers, police and the military to the categories for mandatory vaccination which already included doctors, nurses and healthcare workers.

Another proposal set to be evaluated on 23 December, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera, is the obligation for covid tests "even for vaccinated people to participate in events, parties, and go to crowded places such as cinemas, theatres and discos."

Also reportedly up for discussion will be an obligation to wear masks outdoors, something that is already required in 'yellow zones' - under Italy's system of covid restrictions - which from Monday will apply to seven regions: Alto Adige, Fruili-Venezia Giulia, Calabria, Marche, Veneto, Liguria and Trentino.

The requirement to wear masks outdoors has already been imposed by many Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, in crowded shopping areas over the Christmas period.

The government is also set to evaluate reducing the duration of the Green Pass - which proves the holder has been vaccinated against covid, recovered from the virus or tested negative - from six to five months.

On Friday Italy's emergency coronavirus commissioner General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo appealed to people to get the third 'booster' dose, as well as vaccinate their children, calling on Italians to be "responsible" during the festive season.

More than 85 per cent of Italy's population over the age of 12 is now double-vaccinated, with 14.5 million people so far receiving the third dose, according to the latest government data.

For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website. Cover image: Galleria Alberto Sordi, Rome, 18 December 2021. Photo Wanted in Rome.

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