Protest against vaccine rules shakes Rome

People have taken to the streets in the Italian capital of Rome to protest the government's new coronavirus vaccine mandate for all workers.

The protests on Saturday came before the rules come into force on Friday. Local media say more than 10,000 people took part.

Last month, the Italian government decided to make it mandatory for all workers to carry COVID-19 health certificates. The move is a bid to accelerate inoculations and prevent the spread of infections.

The certificates show that a person has been vaccinated, or has tested negative for the virus. People who do not comply could be suspended from work, and even risk fines.

Police used water cannon to disperse protesters as some of them filled a square and shouted "freedom," while some others sat down in a street to express protest.

Some tried to force their way into a union office, saying labor unions support the mandate.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi denounced the violence, saying that "the right to demonstrate to support one's ideas can never degenerate into acts of aggression and intimidation."

About 80 percent of people in the country eligible for COVID-19 shots have been fully vaccinated, and the number of new weekly cases has declined to less than one-tenth the level of the peak in November last year.

But officials say they will continue to work to encourage vaccinations.