COVID VaccinesReturn to WorkMental Health

Italy to introduce COVID vaccine mandate for those over 50, and shuts down most of public life for the unvaccinated

January 6, 2022, 8:23 AM UTC

Italy made vaccination compulsory for people over 50 and further reduced what the unvaccinated can do in its latest bid to fight the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We want to slow down the growth of the contagion curve and push Italians who still aren’t vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during the cabinet meeting, according to a statement. “We are acting in particular on age groups that are most at risk of hospitalization, to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives.”

A so-called green pass—which is proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test—will now be required to enter banks, public offices and shops. The pass is already required to work, while travel and most leisure activities are only allowed for those who have received a vaccine or have recovered from Covid.

Please read: Europe’s leaders turn to vaccine mandates as the winter COVID wave worsens, and Omicron looms

The government also recommended remote work for both private and public employees, and made it more likely that schools will have to move lessons online.

Record High

The decision came on the day that Italy’s new Covid cases rose to a record high of 189,109. Hospital and intensive care occupancy is also creeping up, even if they remain well below the peaks of 2020. While almost 500 deaths were reported in the last two days, this includes more than 100 people who had passed away in previous weeks. 

The omicron variant is sending infections soaring all over Europe. France hit another record on Wednesday, with 332,252 new cases and the government warning that the current “supersonic” infection wave will last for days. 

As political tensions simmer ahead of lawmakers picking a successor to President Sergio Mattarella, a process which may see compulsory testing in parliament, the government is divided on how to counter the pandemic. The anti-migrant League of Matteo Salvini, and part of the Five Star Movement, the biggest party in parliament, have opposed a push to make vaccination compulsory for all workers.

The government decided late last month to lift its quarantine requirement completely for people who come into contact with a covid case as long as they have had three vaccine doses, and to cut isolation time to five days — from seven — for vaccinated people whose most recent dose was more than 120 days before exposure. Non-vaccinated people will still be required to isolate for 10 days.

Subscribe to Fortune Daily to get essential business stories straight to your inbox each morning.