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By Angelo Amante and Gavin Jones
ROME (Reuters) - Italy on Wednesday tightened the screws on people unwilling to take an anti-COVID vaccine, sharply restricting access to an array of services and making vaccines mandatory for a wider group of public sector workers.
Italy acted as much of Europe is increasing restrictions to try to grapple with a new wave of the pandemic.
Under the Italian measures, which will come into force from Dec. 6, unvaccinated people will not be able to enter venues such as cinemas, restaurants and sports events, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government said in a statement.
"We are seeing the situation in bordering countries is very serious and we also see that the situation in Italy is gradually but constantly getting worse," Draghi told reporters after the cabinet approved the new rules.
"We want to be very prudent to try to safeguard what Italians have achieved in the last year," Draghi said, stressing the need to avoid a full-blown lockdown against the coronavirus that in 2020 caused Italy's steepest post-war recession.
The government extended mandatory vaccination, already in force for healthcare workers, to all school staff, police and the military, beginning from Dec. 15.
In addition, third doses of the vaccine, so-called "boosters", currently available to those over 40 years of age will be made available to everyone over the age of 18.
The measures tighten the requirements for a Green Pass, a certificate that allowed the vaccinated access to various leisure activities and services, to exclude people who have received a negative test in the past 48 hours but have not had a COVID-19 shot.
Most of these steps were widely anticipated following comments by ministers in recent days, but in a surprise move the government also decided to make the Green Pass mandatory for use on urban public transport.
This will be challenging to enforce, given the crowded rush-hour conditions of Italy's buses and metros. For access to public transport the Green Pass will be available to those with a negative test, not just the vaccinated, the government said.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)