vaccine pass
© Getty Images / Alena Paulus
Italy's government has issued a decree requiring that everyone 50 years old and up be vaccinated against Covid-19, exempting only those who have recently recovered from the virus or who can't take the shots for medical reasons.

The Council of Ministers unanimously approved the new mandate on Wednesday after weighing various possible measures to reduce the strain on hospitals amid the rapid strain of Covid-19's Omicron variant. The order is effective from February 15 and is set to continue through at least June 15.

Those who "stubbornly" refuse to comply will face a possible monthly fine of €100, according to Italian media reports. The stiffer penalty comes in addition to €600 to €1,500 fines imposed last year for workers who decline to be immunized. People who've previously been infected with Covid-19 will only be exempted, based on their natural immunity, if their bout with the virus occurred within the past six months.

Italy follows Austria, Germany and Greece in ordering compulsory vaccinations. Austria's mandate will apply to all residents over 14 years old starting February, while Germany's will target all adults. Greece limited its requirement to people 60 and older, and introduced a monthly recurring fine of €100 for those who fail to book their appointment for a first Covid vaccine dose by January 16.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government previously imposed vaccine mandates on teachers and health care workers. Since last October, all Italian workers have been required to get jabbed or take tests to prove that they aren't infected before entering their job sites.

For workers 50 and over, Wednesday's order will remove the option of taking Covid-19 tests in lieu of vaccination. Roughly a third of Italians are currently vaccinated with three doses, but some 20% have yet to receive even a single Covid-19 jab.