(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged strong action to turn around Italy’s slow vaccination campaign, saying an exit path out of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t far away if the country can move faster on inoculations.
Speaking via video, the newly appointed premier told a Rome conference that his priorities include fueling a recovery for Italy’s economy, which contracted 8.9% last year.
“The pandemic is not yet defeated but we can glimpse, with the acceleration of the vaccine plan, an exit path which is not distant,” Draghi said. The premier said he’s committed to “safeguarding health, supporting those in difficulty, favoring economic recovery and accelerating reforms.”
Daily infections are on the rise in Italy, reaching a three-month high last week and pushing total cases above 3 million. Health Minister Roberto Speranza told Rai state television on Sunday that the government is targeting inoculations by summer for all Italians who want them.
A total of 5.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in Italy, with only 2.7% of the population fully vaccinated so far.
Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, noted that Italy was close to passing “the terrible threshold” of losing 100,000 lives to the pandemic, something “we would never have have imagined” a year ago.
“In the vaccination plan, which in the next days will be decisively strengthened, the most fragile people and categories that are at risk will be privileged,” Draghi said.
Draghi’s government has already extended existing restrictions, including a ban on travel between regions and a nighttime curfew. His administration, advised by a panel of scientific and medical experts, is now considering a hard lockdown for several regions while accelerating vaccinations, an official who asked not to be named discussing confidential discussions said earlier Monday.
Options on the table at national level now include making more regions high-risk “red” zones, possibly for about three weeks. Regions could automatically be moved into the red category if the threshold of 250 weekly virus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is breached. Tighter curbs could also include an earlier curfew and closing shops and malls in areas where schools are shut, the official said.