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PM Draghi’s speech at the Covid-19 vaccination centre in Fiumicino

Friday, 12 March 2021

[The following video is available in Italian only]

Good afternoon everyone.

I would first like to thank the Italian Red Cross, Aeroporti di Roma, the Lazio region and the Lazzaro Spallanzani Institute, which have all contributed to setting up this vaccination centre. My thanks also go to Rita Adelfio and Valerio Mogini, who have accompanied me during my visit.

I know that I speak for the whole country when I say how deeply grateful I am to you and to all the doctors, nurses and volunteers who work tirelessly in all of Italy’s healthcare facilities.

Unfortunately, over a year since the health emergency first started, we are now facing a new wave of contagion. 150,175 new infections have been recorded over the past week, compared with 130,816 the week before, up by almost 15%. Over the last fortnight, 5,000 more people testing positive for the virus have been admitted to hospital, with over 650 more patients in intensive care.

These figures are forcing us to proceed with the utmost caution in order to limit the number of deaths and prevent our healthcare facilities from becoming overwhelmed. The events of last spring are still fresh in our minds, and we will do everything we can to prevent them from happening again. Based on scientific evidence, the Government has adopted all the restrictive measures that we deemed to be adequate and proportionate.

We have done this with a decree law, which will see Parliament fully involved in discussions. We have also shared our decisions several times during the State-Regions Conference, in the spirit of encouraging maximum cooperation between the various levels of administration. The last meeting was held this morning, immediately before the Council of Ministers.

A few days ago, I thanked all Italians for their endless patience. I am fully aware that today’s measures will have consequences for our children’s education, for the economy and for the well-being of us all, including our mental health. These measures are necessary to avoid a deterioration that would otherwise inevitably lead to even greater restrictions. However, these new measures are being accompanied by government action to support families and businesses and to speed up the vaccination campaign, which is the only hope we have of overcoming the pandemic. In order to meet the needs of families, we have decided to guarantee the right to work from home for anyone with children having to attend lessons online or under quarantine; this right is already included in today’s decree law.

Those with jobs that do not allow for smart working will be granted access to special parental leave or a babysitting subsidy. The decree containing all the other economic support measures is planned for next week, which will make full use of the Euro 32 billion already authorised. 

This, however, is not enough. I intend to propose a new budgetary slippage to Parliament when the Economy and Finance Document is submitted. The measures provided for in the decree law are substantial, cover more of the population and will arrive more quickly. Some of the most significant include an extension to the fund to supplement earnings (‘cassa integrazione guadagni’) and more extensive financing for tools to combat poverty and support the ‘new poor’, now representing the majority of those queuing up at charity food banks. We will also provide subsidies to self-employed workers and sole traders who have suffered losses in turnover, in a simpler and more immediate way, without sector-based criteria. 

The other commitment I have made to Italian citizens is to give new impetus to the vaccination campaign.

Yesterday, the Italian Medicines Agency (‘AIFA’) blocked a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after serious adverse effects had been reported. This is a precautionary decision, in line with steps taken in other EU countries, and shows that pharmacovigilance systems are working effectively. AIFA’s opinion, shared by scientists, is that there is no proof that these effects are linked to vaccine administration. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is examining the suspected cases, but has also recommended to keep using the vaccine. Whatever the EMA’s final decision, I can assure you that the vaccination campaign will nevertheless push forward with renewed intensity.

Today, we can already see the first results of the campaign ramp up. In the first eleven days of March alone, the number of vaccines administered was equal to approximately 30% of the total number of vaccines administered up until the start of this month. The current vaccination rate is around 170,000 administrations per day, with the aim being to triple this soon. We have already received 7.9 million doses, but we are counting on a strong ramp up over the coming weeks, also following the recent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It has also been announced today that the first agreement has been signed between an Italian company and a patent-owning multinational.

We shall continue to develop Italy’s vaccine production capacity. The European Union has entered into clear agreements with pharmaceutical companies and we expect said agreements to be respected. Over recent weeks, we have made some strong decisions regarding companies that are behind with deliveries. We shall continue to do so in order to defend the health of the Italian people.

In agreement with Minister of Health Roberto Speranza, the head of the Civil Protection Department, Fabrizio Curcio, and the Special Commissioner for the Covid-19 emergency, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, our goal is to make use of all the suitable locations available to administer vaccines. It will not only be possible to get vaccinated in hospitals, but also in companies, gyms and car parks - in centres like the one here in Fiumicino.

Italy already has 1,694 vaccination centres in operation, and many other sites will be identified. We will require a lot of people’s help for this step change. I am referring first and foremost to general practitioners, specialists and those currently completing their specialist training, with whom we have already signed agreements for this purpose. However, this also applies to company doctors, sports doctors and dentists. There will be full compliance with medical protocols, ensuring vaccines are administered quickly and safely. The contribution of these professionals will play a key role in the success of the campaign, as has already been the case at every stage throughout the pandemic, but the participation of all citizens is fundamental. We believe that only with widespread vaccinations will it be possible to remove restrictions like the ones we have had to implement. 

Cooperation with regional authorities is also crucial. Through the Special Covid-19 Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Department, central government shall take charge of intervening whenever difficulties may arise. The subsidiarity principle is key, following the prerogatives that our Constitution assigns to each level of the public administration. 

Italy decided to begin vaccinating healthcare professionals first, who must be able to work in safety in the interest of everyone. We then moved on to administer vaccines in care homes where our most vulnerable fellow citizens live. Lastly, we prioritised the over-80s, together with those working for schools, universities and the emergency services. As we complete vaccinations for these categories, we shall continue in accordance with an order based on age and health conditions.

I ask everyone to wait their turn, as the President of the Italian Republic did in such exemplary fashion.

This is a way for us to show that we are a caring community, protecting those who are most at risk of the effects of the pandemic. Although I am aware of the difficulties being faced, today I would like to give you a message of confidence, strength and hope.

The Government will continue to provide you with the same level of strong support shown during its first month of office. 

Thank you.

[Courtesy translation]