January 11, 2022 - 7:00am

Mario Draghi’s decision to introduce a Covid vaccine mandate for all citizens over 50 has understandably sparked an intense debate here in Italy. Most commentators, however, miss a crucial point: that vaccines are, de facto, already mandatory for most Italian citizens.

For months, everyone over the age of 12 has been required to hold a “Covid passport”, or “green pass” — proving that they’ve either been vaccinated against Covid-19, recently tested negative or have recovered from the disease within the past six months — to enter most public spaces, as well as all workplaces, public or private. This meant that anyone who couldn’t afford to get tested several times a week — in Italy Covid tests have a validity of 48 hours and can cost anything from 15 to 50 euros — had little choice but to get vaccinated.

However, these rules have now been tightened even further. As of yesterday, with the introduction of the so-called “super green pass”, a negative test will no longer be valid to access most public spaces. This means that anyone over the age of 12 will no longer be able use public transport, go the gym, dine (in or outside!) a restaurant or bar or enter a hotel or cinema unless they’re vaccinated or have recovered from Covid (and the latter is only valid for six months). In other words, millions of people will effectively be excluded from public life and reduced to a state of apartheid if they don’t get vaccinated. If this doesn’t amount to a regime of compulsory vaccination, I don’t know what does.

This measure is particularly shameful if we consider that it is also targeted at millions of minors, whom will be effectively subject to lockdown, with all that this entails for their already compromised physical and mental well-being, just because their parents have concluded that there’s little evidence of the benefits of vaccinating children. While one may not agree with such a decision, it’s not entirely unreasonable (as well as being in full compliance with the law). Indeed, based on the fact that that Covid has a minuscule mortality rate in minors (0,002%, to be precise), on the growing body of data on adverse reactions, and on the worrying spike in excess deaths among young people in several countries (including the UK), there’s good reason to believe that, below a certain age, the risks from the vaccine outweigh the benefits. Thus it is reasonable to think that there is an inflection point at which the harms of vaccination outweigh the benefits.

So what is the rationale for the official mandate? The government says that it is necessary to curb the surge in infections and the pressure on hospitals. The former argument, however, is clearly disproven by the obvious fact that there’s no correlation between vaccination rates and lower cases. Indeed, Italy has one of the highest number of daily new cases in the world despite also having one of the highest vaccination rates.

In the over-50s age group, in particular, Italy already registers incredibly high vaccination rates, close to or above 90%. It’s highly doubtful that vaccinating the remaining minority will make any difference to the spread of the virus. Especially if we consider that early studies show that the effectiveness of the current vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant is even lower than with previous variants. It’s just as doubtful that the small remaining minority of unvaccinated individuals can put the hospitals under pressure. The truth is that there’s hardly any Covid emergency to speak of in Italy at the moment, with Covid patients occupying only 17% of ICU beds.

So, as with all the pandemic measures enacted by the Draghi government, even the mandate (or the “super green pass”) would appear to have very little to do with public health. Rather, the motive is political: to further alienate the small minority of vaccine hesitant Italians (which will continue to be blamed for all the government’s failures), exacerbate social conflict and thus justify the maintenance of the permanent state of emergency necessary to continue with the de-democratisation, neoliberalisation and oligarchisation of the country. Welcome To Draghi’s Italy.

Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.