The Italian government has made the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for all health care and pharmacy workers, according to a new decree passed on Wednesday.
In a statement, the government said the measure was introduced to protect medical staff, patients and vulnerable people who are at a risk of infection.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said there was “great satisfaction” on the decree’s passing, adding that winning the “health battle is a prerequisite for a real restart of the country.”
Health care workers who refuse the vaccine will be reassigned where possible to not be in contact with patients. However, sanctions can include not being paid, according to Labour Minister Andrea Orlando who provided details at the end of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday night.
The decree also protects those who administer the vaccine by excluding them of criminal liability as long as the inoculation has been carried out in accordance with instructions set by the health ministry.
The Italian government has also extended coronavirus restrictions until the end of April. The only exception will be for students up to 14 years old who will have to return to school even if they are in a “red zone,” the strictest three-tier system Italy has adopted to curb the spread of the virus.
According to the latest data from the Italian health ministry there has been an increase of at least 23,904 coronavirus cases on Wednesday and at least 467 deaths over a 24-hour period.
This brings the total number of cases to at least 3,584,899 since the start of the pandemic.