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On Thursday, the government decided to overcome many of the rules and restrictions introduced to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Among other things, established that the work of the extraordinary commissioner for the emergency, the army general Francesco Figliuolo, is finished. At the end of March, when the state of emergency ends, the commissioner structure will pass its tasks to a new “mission unit”, essentially a new working group for which the Council presidency will be directly responsible. “I would like to thank General Figliuolo and the commissioner: the return to normality is also thanks to them,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Thursday.
Son had been nominated extraordinary commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency a year ago, on March 1, 2021, in place of Domenico Arcuri, who held the position since the beginning of the pandemic. Figliuolo had been in charge of managing the vaccination campaign, the distribution of vaccines to the regions and the setting up of vaccination points. Over the months, however, the commissioner structure took on many other rather concrete problems: it managed the contracts for all drugs against COVID-19, the tenders for the purchase and distribution of masks, the warehouses with all the emergency material used to supply hospitals, even the negotiations with temporary employment agencies for the extraordinary hiring of medical and nursing staff dedicated to the emergency.
In recent months, thanks mainly to the effectiveness of vaccines, the pandemic has had much less severe effects than the first three waves of the epidemic. During the fourth wave between mid-December and mid-January, a period characterized by the rapid spread of the omicron variant, the pressure in hospital ICUs had been quite under control. In fact, the management of the epidemic has passed from a long emergency phase to a more ordinary one that many experts have defined as “coexistence” with the virus.
The government’s decisions were consequent: in addition to the dismissal of the emergency commissioner structure, the emergency powers that had been attributed to the Civil Protection led by Fabrizio Curcio also ceased with the decree approved on Thursday.
The divestiture will not be total. Even without all the powers guaranteed by the emergency, the new body called “unit for the completion of the vaccination campaign and for the adoption of other measures to combat the pandemic” will have the task of continuing the work of the commissioner. The government will have to appoint a director and hire new staff, although it is not excluded that many of the soldiers chosen by Figliuolo will be employed to avoid a laborious handover. From 1 January 2023 the new unit will pass under the control of the Ministry of Health.
The dismissal of the emergency commissioner was expected. Figliuolo had announced it for weeks and had written a letter to the regions to give some recommendations on the management of the vaccination campaign and on a possible worsening of the epidemiological situation. “The experience gained by the country system testifies to the importance of being far-sighted and faithful to the principles of maximum precaution, placing the accent on the concrete and immediate availability of resources”, wrote Figliuolo.
With the end of the state of emergency, the task of the technical scientific committee (CTS) will also end, which in the last two years has advised the government and the Ministry of Health on the restrictions to be introduced to combat the increase in infections. The work of the consultants will continue for the Higher Institute of Health and the Higher Council of Health. “The CTS has given extraordinary support to very difficult decisions taken by this and the previous government,” said Draghi. “He gave psychological support to say that decisions were made with the support of science, not on the basis of feeling. This is essential for those who make decisions ».