Milan, Italy
Reuters

Human rights group Amnesty International urged Italy to change tough anti-COVID restrictions to avoid discrimination against unvaccinated people.

In a recent decree Mario Draghi's government made vaccination mandatory for everyone over the age of 50 and for use of public transport and a range of other services, one of very few countries to take similar steps, in an attempt to ease pressure on Italian health services and reduce fatalities.

Italy Rome Termini train station

 A man shows his coronavirus disease (COVID-19) "Super Green Pass" before getting on a train on the day Italy brings in tougher rules for the unvaccinated, at Termini main train station in Rome, Italy, on 10th January. PICTURE: Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane.

Amnesty International asked for the provision of alternative measures, including the use of masks and COVID-19 testing, to allow the unvaccinated population to continue to go to work and to use public transport "without discrimination", the group said in a statement issued late on Saturday.

Under current rules, which will run until 15th June, wearing a mask and having a negative COVID-19 test is not sufficient to access public transportation or, for people over the age of 50, to their workplaces.

Amnesty International Italia, the local chapter of the human rights group, said that mandatory vaccination could be justified but needed to be limited in time and "proportionate" to a legitimate aim of public health protection.

"The government must continue to ensure that the entire population can enjoy its fundamental rights, such as the right to education, work and medial treatment, with particular regard to non-COVID patients who need urgent surgery," it said.



Meanwhile, France's parliament gave final approval on Sunday to the government's latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a vaccine pass contested by anti-vaccine protestors.

Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 215 in favour to 58 against, paving the way for the law to enter force in the coming days.

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The new law, which had a rough ride through parliament with opposition parties finding some of its provisions too tough, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains. 

Currently, unvaccinated people can enter such places with the results of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Nearly 78 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry on Saturday. 

President Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to seek a second term in an April presidential election, told Le Parisien paper this month that he wanted to "piss off" unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine. 

Thousands of anti-vaccine protestors demonstrated in Paris and some other cities on Saturday against the law, but their numbers were down sharply from the week before, just after Macron's remarks.

France is in the grips of its fifth COVID-19 wave with daily new cases regularly hitting record levels over 300,000. Nonetheless the number of serious cases putting people in ICU wards is much lower than the first wave in March-April, 2020.

Protests against coronavirus measures were held in a number of European nations on the weekend including The Netherlands, Malta and Hungary.