Italy will impose mandatory COVID vaccines on everyone over 50 years of age, the government has announced.
It came as the country registered a record 189,000 new infections over the previous 24 hours.
Public administration minister Renato Brunetta said the move puts Italy in the vanguard of European countries cracking down on those refusing to be vaccinated and who now account for the majority of patients in the country's rapidly filling ICU beds.
The measure also applies to all university staff regardless of age — bringing higher education in line with other schools and with health care workers, members of the military and police forces.
"The text aims to slow down the growth curve of infections related to the pandemic and to provide greater protection to those categories that are most exposed and who are at greater risk of hospitalisation," the government said in a statement.
Italy has 59 million inhabitants, 28 million of whom are over 50, according to the National Statistics Institute (Istat).
Some 78% of Italy’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and about 36% have received a booster shot, which experts say is a crucial instrument in reducing the possibility that an infection will necessitate intensive care or be fatal.
It was not immediately announced what if any penalty non-vaccinated older persons might face.
Health minister Roberto Speranza told reporters that anyone 50 or older will be checked to see if they have a “super green pass” before they enter their workplaces.
That certification is reserved for those who are fully vaccinated or who have recently recovered from COVID-19.
Also adopted was a requirement that anyone working or obtaining services in beauty parlours and similar establishments must have a negative virus test if they aren’t vaccinated or haven't recently recovered from COVID-19.
The same rule will apply to stores in shopping malls and to banks and post offices.