Italian police use water cannon to push back anti-vax protesters in Rome

(Reuters) – Italian police on Saturday used water cannon to push back hundreds of people demonstrating in Rome against coronavirus vaccination, seeking to keep them from the prime minister’s office.

Around 10,000 people took to the streets in the heart of the Italian capital to protest against the Green Pass, a digital or paper certificate showing someone has received at least one dose of the vaccine, tested negative for COVID-19 or recently recovered from the virus, local media reported.

A few hundred of the demonstrators headed towards the prime minister’s office, they said.

Police lined up in riot gear to contain the protesters, who are backed by extreme far-right groups, Italian media said.

The protests come just days before the law for Green Pass enters into force, making it mandatory for all workers, in the latest effort by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition to persuade citizens to get inoculated.

Italy has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after Britain, with more than 130,000 people dying of the disease since the pandemic surfaced in early 2020.

Under the new law, any worker who fails to present a valid health certificate will be suspended with no pay, but they cannot be sacked.

Some 80% of all Italians over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated and the vast majority of people seem to back the inoculation drive and the use of the Green Pass.