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MARIO DRAGHI

‘Draghi effect’: Protests in Italy – but also surge in vaccine bookings after PM’s health pass announcement

Protests were held around Italy on Saturday after the government unveiled plans to require the health passport for entry to venues including restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

‘Draghi effect’: Protests in Italy - but also surge in vaccine bookings after PM's health pass announcement
A protester in Rome holds a placard reading 'Shit Green Pass'. Photo: Filippo Monteforte

After Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday announced an expansion of the country’s health passport scheme and urged people to get vaccinated or face a new lockdown, protests were organised in dozens of towns and cities across the country.

“Better to die free than live like slaves!” read one placard held up outside Milan’s cathedral, while another in Rome’s historic centre read “Vaccines set you free” over a picture of the gates to Auschwitz.

The vast majority of protesters were not wearing masks, AFP reports.

A demonstration inside Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall on July 24th, 2021. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Meanwhile, online vaccination booking portals were reportedly struggling to cope with demand for appointments on Friday and Saturday due to what Italian media is calling the “Draghi effect”.

at least half a million vaccination appointments were made in the 24 hours following Draghi’s televised address, according to Italy’s coronavirus emergency commissioner.

EXPLAINED: When, where and why will you need a Covid health passport in Italy?

“Today we registered an increase in bookings ranging from +15% to +200% depending on the region. In Friuli Venezia Giulia we registered +6,000%”. Emergency Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told Italian news show Tg5 on Friday evening.

More than 100,000 appointments were booked in the regions of Lazio and Lombardy alone, Figliuolo said.

Draghi on Thursday night urged people to “get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated”, as he and Health Minister Roberto Speranza outlined plans for expanding the use of the ‘green pass’ within Italy.

Far-right group Forza Nuova leads a demonstration against the green pass in Rome on July 24th, 2021. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

From August 6th, people in Italy will need the pass to enter gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other public venues, including indoor seating areas at bars and restaurants.

It will serve as proof that bearers have either been vaccinated, undergone a recent negative Covid-19 test, or recovered from Covid-19.

Business owners are expected to enforce the rules or face fines of up to 1,000 euros under the decree adopted by the cabinet this week.

The government hopes the expansion of the ‘green pass’ scheme will persuade more people to book their vaccinations as health ministry data showed a recent slowdown in the number of first jabs administered.

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Draghi said the scheme was also being expanded as an alternative to new restrictions and business closures as the number of new cases recorded in the country has spiked.

”The use of vaccine certificates is needed to keep the economy open,” Draghi said,

He said the alternative to the green pass and more vaccination would be the return of health restrictions, stating: “No vaccines mean a new lockdown”.

Draghi also had strong words for anyone encouraging others to avoid getting vaccinated, saying: “An invitation not to get vaccinated is an invitation to die, or to let others die.”

READ ALSO:  How big is Italy’s anti-vax movement really?

Protesters walk past a restaurant in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Piedmont regional governor Alberto Cirio said the government’s anouncement “had the effect of doubling the requests for vaccinations.”

“Every hour on our portal we’re registering double the number compared to the average of the previous days,” he told news agency Ansa.

Vice-President of the Lombardy Region Letizia Moratti wrote on Twitter on Friday that “participation in the vaccination campaign is growing, yesterday about 49,000 citizens signed up. To meet these new requests, an additional 100,000 new appointments will be made available for first doses from today until the end of August ”

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing populist League party, got vaccinated on Friday according to Italian media reports.

Similar measures announced in France by President Emmanuel Macron last week sparked protests, but also dramatically increased the number of vaccination bookings.

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ENERGY

Italian PM says Russia’s excuses for gas cut are ‘lies’ as shortfall continues

Italy received a lower supply of gas from Russia again on Friday, after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi accused Gazprom of lying about the reasons for the supply cuts.

Italian PM says Russia's excuses for gas cut are 'lies' as shortfall continues

Italian energy firm Eni said in a statement on Friday that it would receive only 50 percent of the requested supply from Russia, meaning Gazprom has now cut its gas imports to Italy and other countries for the third day running.

“The reasons for the supply cuts… we are told, are technical,” Draghi told a news conference in Kyiv on Thursday after Gazprom reduced supplies to Italy’s Eni and to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline for a second day.

“We and Germany and others believe that these are lies.”

Russia stepped up the energy pressure on Europe this week as tensions raged with the West over Ukraine, slashing gas supplies to the continent in a move blasted as “political” by Germany.

Several European countries, including Italy and Germany, are highly reliant upon Russian gas for their energy needs.

Italian energy giant Eni said on Thursday it would receive only 65 percent of the gas requested in a second day of reduced supply.

READ ALSO: Italy receives lower Russian gas supply for second day

“Gazprom explained that the under-delivery is due to problems at the Portovaya plant which feeds the Nord Stream gas pipeline, through which Gazprom transports part of the volumes destined for Eni,” a spokesman for the Italian firm said on Wednesday

Draghi said state-owned Gazprom – which has said Moscow has every right to play by its own rules over the cuts – was using the gas supply for “political” ends.

Gazprom logo

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian national energy firm Gazprom for imports of natural gas. Photo by Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP

“We are seeing a political use of gas, just as we have seen a political use of wheat,” he said in reference to the millions of tons of wheat currently stuck in Ukrainian ports.

Italy has been seeking to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by seeking alternative sources, while also promising to invest more in renewables.

Draghi said in May the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

READ ALSO: How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

The gas squeeze “has consequences, not immediately on consumption, but on stockpiling”, Draghi said.

Italy had been filling its gas reserves “quite rapidly”, and was “already at 52 percent of stockpile levels”.

But the reduction in supply has pushed prices up, which will inevitably make stockpiling “more difficult”, he said.

With Gazprom providing less gas at higher prices, “Europe is in greater difficulty and Russia is cashing in exactly the same as before, if not more,” Draghi said.

“This is a (Russian) strategy that… must be faced and fought.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi visited Kyiv on Thursday on a surprise joint visit with the leaders of France and Germany, to show solidarity with the war-torn country.

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