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ROME (LifeSiteNews) — The Italian government has decreed that COVID-19 vaccination will be compulsory for all residents over the age of 50 by mid-February, making Italy one of just a few European countries to impose a blanket COVID vaccine mandate for residents.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet approved the measure Wednesday, requiring all workers 50 years old and up to present a health certificate showing that they have been jabbed or have recently recovered from the virus, or face unpaid suspension. Unemployed residents over 50 will also have to be vaccinated, though it is not yet clear what penalties they may face.

The measure comes into force February 15 and is set to last until at least June 15.

28 million of Italy’s 59 million residents are over the age of 50, including 7 percent who remain unvaccinated, according to EuroNews. Around 75 percent of Italians are “fully vaccinated” and another 6 percent have received at least one shot.

Italy already introduced a COVID-19 “Green Pass” in October for workers to show proof of vaccination, COVID recovery, or a negative test every two days to enter the workplace. Wednesday’s move eliminates the possibility of presenting a test rather than proof of vaccination or recovery for those over 50 years old, however, as well as for all university staff, regardless of age. Draghi’s government previously mandated vaccination for other school staff, health care workers, the police, and the military.

“Today’s measures are intended to preserve the health system, and at the same time keep schools and businesses open. We want to slow down the curve of infections and push the Italians who have not yet got vaccinated to do so,” Draghi said Wednesday.

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza described the new health certificate as a “super green pass,” telling reporters that anyone over 50 will be checked at their workplace to ensure that they have it.

Ministers from the right-wing Lega party blasted the provision, characterizing it as “without scientific foundation.” The Lega, a member of Draghi’s ruling coalition, successfully halted proposals to require proof of vaccination or recent infection for entry to public offices, banks, post offices, beauty parlors, and non-essential stores.

The government on Wednesday approved a requirement that all unvaccinated workers or customers at such establishments must have a negative test if they haven’t recently recovered from the virus.

Speranza and the leftist Democrats argued for mandatory COVID vaccination for all adults, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, Italy moved to extend the so-called “super green pass” to virtually all social or cultural activities, including sporting events, though not to workplaces. That measure takes effect Monday.

Despite its high vaccination rate, Italy has posted record COVID case numbers amid the spread of omicron, with 189,000 new cases yesterday alone. Other highly vaccinated European countries have reported similar trends, as the vaccines increasingly fail to halt transmission and infection. In Denmark, more than 90 percent of omicron infections have been detected in vaccinated people, who have accounted for the majority of COVID deaths and admissions in the United Kingdom in the last two months.

“We must be aware that even triple-vaccinated are likely to transmit the disease,” Ugur Sahin, CEO of vaccine maker BioNTech, recently said. “It is obvious we are far from 95 percent effectiveness that we obtained against the initial virus.”

Italy’s new mandate for residents over 50 years old follow a similar one in Greece for people older than 60. Austria also mandated the vaccine for residents 14 years old and up in November.

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