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VACCINE

How is Italy’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout going?

Italy is reportedly the second most efficient country in the EU with 260,000 vaccinations administered, but the campaign hasn’t got off to a promising start everywhere in the country.

How is Italy's Covid-19 vaccine rollout going?
Photo: AFP

As of January 6, a total of 259,481 people had been vaccinated in Italy against Covid-19.

This accounts for 54.1 percent of the 479,700 doses delivered by the EU as part of Italy’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines.

These numbers put Italy in “second place” in the EU’s race for Covid immunisation, according to the president of Italy's Higher Health Council (CSS) Franco Locatelli.

The latest official data shows how Lazio continues to be the Italian region with the highest completion rate with 77.9 percent of doses administered, followed by Tuscany (75.1 percent) and Veneto (73.8 percent).

“We believe that this rate of inoculation should continue or accelerate further”, Domenico Arcuri, Special Commissioner for Italy’s Covid-19 emergency, told news channel TG1.

As of January 5, the regions at the bottom of vaccination ranking were Lombardy (21 percent of available doses), Valle d'Aosta (18.07 percent), Sardinia (9.8 percent) and Calabria (6 percent), with Lombardy reportedly having an even worse completion rate with just 12 percent.

Italy’s press is currently posing the question of how it’s possible for Lombardy – the wealthiest and best medically equipped region in the country – to be experiencing such delays in the distribution of its Covid vaccines, with the absence over hospital staff over the Christmas holidays being cited as the main setback.

READ ALSO: How will Italy's Covid-19 vaccine campaign work?

“The organizational machine is accelerating and, within a few weeks, it will travel at full speed” stated ministerial sources, considering Italy’s numbers “already satisfactory today” despite the discrepancies between regions.

“The numbers place our country in second position on the continent for the quantity of doses administered, behind only Germany, which had a higher initial supply,” Chigi Palace sources added.

By Monday January 4th 265,000 vaccinations had been administered in Germany.

The UK achieved 1.3 million Covid vaccinations by January 5, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, although the now officially non-EU nation did begin its vaccination campaign on December 8th.

Other European nations such as France and Spain have achieved far worse results with their vaccination campaigns, with rollouts marred by a lack of planning, excessive bureaucracy, Christmas holidays and logistical problems relating to the extreme refrigeration requirements of the Pfizer vaccine. 

Other EU nations such as Portugal and the Netherlands are yet to begin the rollout.
 

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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