no mask
Protesters take part in a 'no mask' rally against the government's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures, in Rome, on September 5, 2020. Image Credit: REUTERS

Rome: About 1,000 people demonstrated Saturday in the heart of Rome against the mandatory use of face masks for schoolchildren and compulsory vaccination for them.

More than 35,500 people have died in Italy - one of the first countries in Europe to be hit. The country, where almost 276,000 cases have been reported, emerged in May from a strict two-month lockdown.

The crowd was composed of anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists.

"No masks, no social distancing," a banner read. Others read "Personal freedom is inviolable" and "Long live liberty."

One protester carried a photo of Pope Francis with the word Satan written above it and the number 666 - considered a symbol of the devil.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reacted frostily saying: "More than 274,000 ill and 35,000 dead. Full stop."

He said there would be no new lockdown but only targeted confinements if needed."