July 31, 2021

Italy likely to impose ‘green pass’ restrictions on unvaccinated people

The Italian government is poised to introduce restrictions on unvaccinated people as it pushes for more citizens to take a vaccine against Covid-19 amid a resurgence in infections.

Ministers are meeting on Thursday evening to approve a decree that could result in the adoption of restrictions similar to those seen in France.

Entry to stadiums, museums, theatres, cinemas, swimming pools, gyms and nightclubs – for which a reopening date is expected to be announced – would only be allowed upon presentation of a “green pass”.

The pass, which is an extension of the EU’s digital Covid certificate, may also be required for travelling within the country by train, plane or long-distance bus.

Parties within Mario Draghi’s broad governing coalition have clashed over whether the pass should be required in order to be served indoors at bars and restaurants.

It is unclear when the expected restrictions will take effect. Some Italian newspapers say the measures will be imposed from 26 July, others that they will be introduced in phases over the coming weeks.

For those who are fully vaccinated, the green pass will be valid from 14 days after their second dose and will last for nine months. The pass will also be available to anyone who presents proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours before accessing any of the activities under restriction, and to those who have recovered from Covid-19.

On Thursday, Italy registered 5,057 new coronavirus infections, mostly driven by the Delta variant, compared with 4,259 the day before. There were 15 more Covid-related deaths, bringing the total to 127,920 – the highest death toll in Europe after the UK.

Celebrations after Italy’s victory in the Euro 2020 football championship are believed to have contributed to the recent surge in infections, particularly in Rome, where cases have increased fivefold since 11 July.

Covid-related deaths and hospitalisations have fallen drastically since Italy accelerated its vaccination programme. As of Thursday, 52.83% of the population have been fully vaccinated. However, bookings for jabs in recent weeks have slowed, due either to young people delaying their vaccine until after the summer holidays or those who are decided against vaccination.

Italy has a small but vociferous anti-vaccination movement, which has held several protests in recent months against the green pass initiative.

There has been opposition to the scheme from far-right parties. Giorgia Meloni, who leads the opposition Brothers of Italy, said on Thursday that it would “kill the tourism season”.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega, a far-right party and key partner in Draghi’s administration, said earlier this week that a green pass is “fine for stadiums, but not for eating a pizza”.

The government is also expected to reintroduce the tiered, colour-coded system of restrictions for Italy’s 20 regions, although decisions will be made based on the number of people hospitalised or in intensive care with Covid-19 per region rather than upon the number of infections.

Italy’s state of emergency, which gives greater powers to central government – for example, to impose a lockdown – is expected to be extended until the end of the year.