Covid-19: Anger in Italy at call for more vaccines for rich regions

The idea that richer areas should get a bigger share of coronavirus vaccines has sparked an outcry in Italy, where inequality in healthcare funding between regions is a major issue.

Covid-19: Anger in Italy at call for more vaccines for rich regions
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
The proposal came from Letizia Moratti, the aristocrat wife of a late oil baron, who this month was appointed health chief of the northern Lombardy region, which includes Milan.
Writing to the government coronavirus crisis commissioner, she said vaccines should be allocated to regions based not only on population density, but also on gross domestic product (GDP), local impact of the pandemic and levels of mobility.
“It is not about giving more vaccines to richer regions… but in helping Lombardy's recovery you would automatically help the recovery of the whole country,” she said in the letter, parts of which media published.
Lombardy, which already has received the largest share of doses on account of being the most populous region, ticks all Moratti's boxes.
Milan and the surrounding Lombardy region has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP
It is has the highest regional GDP and the worst coronavirus record, accounting for almost a third of the Italy's more than 82,500 virus dead.
And it is one of the few Italian regions declared a red zone under renewed coronavirus restrictions since Sunday.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza was quick to dismiss Moratti's idea.
“Everybody has a right to be vaccinated, regardless of the wealth of the place where they live,” he said, stressing that health was a constitutionally-guaranteed public good and “not a privilege for those who have more”.

Vincenzo De Luca, leader of the Campania region in Italy's poorer south, called Moratti's proposal “one step away from barbarity”, and urged her to retract her “ill-thought remarks”.
Italy has long had a north-south 'health gap' and a problem with inequality in the funding of healthcare between its regions, each of which manages its health infrastructure independently under the country's decentralised system.
Italy has so far administered more than 1.2 million doses of the vaccine, more than other European Union nations.
It has begun administering second doses, but most regions have temporarily paused new first doses due to a supply delay affecting the whole of Europe.

The vaccine is not yet available to the general population in Italy.

Some regions including Lazio have said they aim to begin vaccinating over-80s in February.

Doctors and other healthcare workers are first in line (some 1.4 million people) along with residents in care homes – just over 570,000 people. the health ministry has said.

Italy's latest vaccination data, both regional and national, is being regularly updated on this government website.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”