Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he expects the vaccination campaign in Italy to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic by late spring, but vaccinations will not be obligatory.

“We will see a significant effect with 10 to 15 million vaccinated people, not before April,” Conte told reporters in Rome on Wednesday. First, health workers and elderly people will be vaccinated, and then citizens with chronic diseases are next in line to receive the protective shots, the PM said during his end-of-year news conference.

However, the government has no plans to make Covid-19 inoculations obligatory, Conte explained, as he is certain that there will be a large-scale voluntary demand for the shots throughout the country. “We are not considering [making it mandatory], we rule it out,” he added.

As of Wednesday, Italian authorities have recorded 2,067,487 Covid-19 cases in total, with 73,029 deaths. The previous day, the daily tally of new infections rose to 11,212 from 8,585 a day earlier.

Despite plans to vaccinate millions of Italians, authorities will maintain current coronavirus restrictions into next year, including social distancing and facemasks, according to Health Ministry adviser Walter Ricciardi.

“The start of the vaccination campaign does not mean that our behavior will change with respect to virus protection,” he told ANSA on Wednesday. “But with the vaccinations, we will start having fewer deaths and fewer sick, and that reassures everyone.”

Meanwhile, Conte also said that Italy must speed up work on preparing its national recovery plan to access some €209 billion ($256.55 billion) from an EU recovery fund intended to help member states support their Covid-hit economies. This plan may be finalized by February, according to the prime minister.

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