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COVID-19 RULES

Italy considers making Covid vaccine mandatory for the over 60s

The Italian government has begun a meeting to discuss making vaccines compulsory for the over 60s among a raft of other new health measures, as Covid cases continue to surge and hospitalisations increase.

An elderly lady in Italy receives the Covid vaccine.
Italy is discussing making vaccination mandatory for the over 60s. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Talks have started on the latest change to the nationwide Covid-19 health measures in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, as Italy reported a record high of 170,000 cases on Tuesday.

This will be the third Covid decree after the government already brought in two previous ones in as many weeks.

Calendar: When do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change?

Included in the draft decree is the proposal to make vaccines compulsory for the most fragile members of society at greatest risk of falling seriously ill from Covid – those over 60 years old.

The move is hoped to reach the some 1.5 million people in this category who have yet to receive a single dose, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The far-right League party is in favour of a vaccine mandate for this age group. Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia said this would be “precisely to protect the most fragile segments of the population”, reports news agency Ansa.

But Italy’s centrist Five Star Movement party is reportedly opposed to the idea. Its current leader and former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte said, “It seems paradoxical to reason about compulsory vaccination when even those who make themselves available for the third dose find it difficult to do so quickly.”

Other ideas on the table are extending the ‘super green pass’ to all workplaces, effectively meaning all workers will need to get vaccinated.

Only healthcare staff, police, teachers and emergency services workers are currently subject to mandatory vaccinations. While this is a possibility for all staff, it’s expected the government will approve expanding the super health certificate requirement.

The ‘super’ or ‘reinforced’ green pass health certificate, which proves vaccination or recovery, has already been made compulsory for access to almost all leisure, social or sporting activities in the country, but workplaces so far are not subject to the rule.

Also to be decided are the new rules on quarantine and distance learning for schools ahead of their return to class after the festive break.

Member comments

  1. The continued vulnerability may not be with the over 60’s (although I see the reasoning), but with the lack of vaccinations available to non-registrants of the Italian healthcare system. The lack of vaccination availability might span entire age groups of that group of people.

    Consider, for example, the individual who has been fully vaccinated with two, or even three, shots prior to entering Italy. They might be here for 90 days or for a year, perhaps even longer. They cannot obtain a vaccination without a healthcare system number. At present, many have to return to their home country to get additional shots.

    The less travel and travel contacts made to achieve full vaccination and protection for all countries is to open the shots to everyone – citizen, ex-patriot, visitor and the like. Charging for those shots would be acceptable, I’m sure, to those seeking vaccinations.

    The benefit isn’t just for the individuals, but the whole community.

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COVID-19 RULES

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”

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