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1 Jan, 2022 08:36

Italian health ministry warns fans to ‘make sacrifices’ with masks

A government official in Italy has said unvaccinated athletes and fans will be banned from sporting arenas
Italian health ministry warns fans to ‘make sacrifices’ with masks

Sports stars and supporters who have not had their shots of Covid vaccines will be banned from attending events, a health minister in Italy has said while warning that there are "too many fans without a mask".

Italy was one of the first countries to introduce mask measures and hold matches behind closed doors when the pandemic began in 2020, meaning some fans have spent almost two years wearing face coverings in a bid to curb the coronavirus crisis.

The two most recent matchdays in Italian top flight Serie A, which had been scheduled for December 26 and 29, were also postponed amid the rise of the Omicron variant and an increase in positive cases among players.

"Unvaccinated athletes can no longer play," Andrea Costa, an undersecretary of the country's Ministry of Health, told Radio Punto Nuovo via Corriere Dello Sport.

"The pandemic has shown that it has great dynamism and we cannot afford to nullify the sacrifices we have made for two years.

"We hope that even in the stadiums there will be an assumption of responsibility.

"There were too many fans without a mask. We are asking everyone to make a further sacrifice."

Mask-wearing indoors has been a requirement in Italy from an early stage of the pandemic.

Vaccination certification is also needed to access spaces such as indoor dining areas, gyms, museums and theatres, with the documentation requirement said to have been extended into workplaces recently.

In October, reports suggested the percentage of vaccinated players in Serie A was as high as 98 percent – a significant increase on the stated 68 percent figure in the English Premier League.

That does not appear to have been sufficient to ensure more games have not been called off as a result of Covid outbreaks, with stadium capacities halved earlier this week.

"Other European countries have taken stricter measures but we believe that the reduction to 50 percent is enough," said Costa.

"We need to respect the rules. You can only go to the stadium if you are vaccinated or [test negative]... we have given a clear distance between those who get vaccinated and those who decide not to do so."

Costa also claimed: "Let's not forget that most of the intensive care units are occupied by the unvaccinated – eight out of ten people."