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Italy makes Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers

The Italian government will require healthcare professionals to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or stop serving the public, in a bid to protect the vulnerable and curb the 'anti-vax' movement.

Italy makes Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers
Medical workers prepare vaccines in northern Italy. Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government will introduce the requirement in its new emergency decree, the government announced on Wednesday night.

All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists now that Italy has authorized vaccination to take place in pharmacies, will be obliged to get vaccinated in order to continue in their roles.

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Those who refuse could be suspended, without pay, until the end of the year. The bill will allow those refusing to be vaccinating to be reassigned, if possible, in roles away from the public.

“The aim of the measure is to protect, as much as possible, both medical and paramedical staff and those who are in environments that may be more exposed to the risk of infection,” the government said in its statement announcing the new measures.

Included in the decree is also a measure to protect those administering the doses from legal action. Medics had called for  safeguarding after healthcare workers in Sicily were investigated for manslaughter following the death of a man who had been vaccinated.

The latest decree “excludes the criminal liability of medical and health personnel in charge of administering the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, for the crimes of culpable homicide and culpable personal injury committed during the emergency period”, the government said. 

This applies as long as health professionals give the vaccinations in accordance with government guidelines.

Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Speaking last Friday, Draghi told a news conference that the government cannot allow unvaccinated workers to be in contact with sick people.

The day before, Liguria’s regional president Giovanni Toti called for a national law after at least 12 people were infected with coronavirus at two hospitals in the area due to two unvaccinated health workers.

“In light of the need to protect citizens at a fragile time, such as hospitalisation, there may be the legal conditions, and also political, for a measure,” Toti said.

“It’s clear that we need a national law, because we risk chaos in our hospitals in a few weeks,” he added, calling for a “clear regulatory framework”.

Italy has a small but significant “anti-vaxx” movement and some experts fear their numbers may swell following safety fears over the AstraZeneca coronavirus jab.

The use of the vaccine was suspended in March across several EU countries before the bloc’s regulator declared it safe.

How many health workers in Italy have opted not to be vaccinated is unknown, although Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Friday that it amounted to a “very minimal” number of people.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Draghi was vaccinated with the first dose of AstraZeneca on Tuesday. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP)

PM got vaccinated with AstraZeneca

Mario Draghi received his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, to show support for the jab after Italy paused its rollout in March over concerns about possible rare side effects.

Jabs resumed after the European Medicines Agency re-confirmed it was “safe and effective” against Covid-19. The World Health Organisation also gave the all-clear.

Italy has struggled with its vaccination campaign, as logistical and organisational problems add to EU-wide supply shortages.

Italy is particularly lagging behind on vaccinations for the elderly, despite them being at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The country has now administered over 10 million doses and fully vaccinated just over 3.1 million people of the total population of 60 million.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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