ROME, Italy: Italian adults age 50 years and older are now required to be inoculated against COVID-19, in response to rising hospitalizations caused by the spread of the Omicron variant.
The step, viewed as among the most stringent inoculation directives in Europe, is being put into force immediately. The decision garnered support among the government's ministers, in spite of less than unanimous agreement within the parties forming Prime Minister Mario Draghi's wide alliance.
Moreover, Italy has stepped up vaccination guidelines for workplaces and, as of mid-February, individuals above 50 years of age and employed are to be required to carry green passes documenting their having been vaccinated or having recovered from the coronavirus disease.
Italy's hospitals are increasingly burdened by the increasing number of COVID-19 admissions.
The government reported an additional 189,109 cases on January 5, along with 231 deaths, thereby recording 138,276 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, which is the highest death rate in Europe, following the United Kingdom.
Also, Minister of Health Roberto Speranza reported that two-thirds of Covid patients now in ICUs had not been previously inoculated.
"We are making these choices in order to restrict the unvaccinated as much as possible, as this is what is causing the burden on our hospital system," Speranza told reporters.
Meanwhile, top business executives have called upon the government to order compulsory vaccinations for the nation's entire workforce amid concerns that the recent COVID-19 wave could trigger an economic slowdown.
"We want to slow the growth of the infection curve and push Italians who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated," Draghi noted.