Italy plans to vaccinate 10 to 15 million of its roughly 60 million citizens against coronavirus (COVID-19) by April 2021, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said.
During a year-end press conference on Wednesday, Conte said that under Italy's mass vaccination campaign, the first group of people to be inoculated will be the country's 1.8 million doctors, nurses, and nursing home residents and staff, reports Xinhua.
They will be followed by 4.4 million people aged over 80, 13.4 million people aged between 60 and 79, and 7.4 million elderly people affected by at least one chronic illness.
According to the nation's vaccination plan, which was approved by the parliament on Dec. 2, these initial categories will be followed by teachers and other essential service providers, as well as prison inmates and staff. The rest of the population will be vaccinated after all these categories are covered.
"We should be able to vaccinate 10 to 15 million people by April," Conte said.
The pandemic has claimed over 73,000 lives in Italy since the country reported its first known COVID-19 case in February 2020, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health.
Conte said that the government will not make the vaccine mandatory, but it is assessing whether to issue a special form of identification to people who get vaccinated so that they can move around more freely than those who refuse the vaccine.
The vaccination campaign kicked off in Italy and the rest of the European Union (EU) on Dec. 27.
The Italian prime minister also expressed the hope that "on Jan. 7, 2021, schools can reopen with at least 50 percent of the students in class" and the rest in remote learning mode.
"We will extend the (COVID-related) state of emergency as long as necessary," he added.
Italy declared a national state of emergency due to the pandemic on Jan. 31 this year and has extended it to Jan. 31, 2021.
"We were the first in the Western world to be challenged by the pandemic though we managed to reinforce our credibility in Italy and in Europe," Conte said.
Italy must not squander this credibility, and come up with viable projects to spend EU's COVID-19 recovery financing, he said.
The European Council approved a 750-billion-euro (over 920 billion U.S. dollars) COVID-19 recovery package, known as Next Generation EU, in July 2020. A sizable portion of that money has been allocated to Italy.
"We cannot afford to waste one euro" of the forthcoming EU money, Conte said, adding that his government is committed to "the digital transition, the green transition, and sustainable development."
Italy expects to finalize its Recovery Plan based on EU funding by February 2021, Conte said.