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HEALTH

Italy to introduce new Covid ‘pass’ for travel in high-risk zones

Italy's prime minister has announced that a travel "pass" will soon allow people to enter or leave Italy's higher-risk coronavirus zones.

Italy to introduce new Covid 'pass' for travel in high-risk zones
Negative Covid test certifcates are already required to board dsome train services in Italy, and may soon be needed for more domestic travel. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed on Friday that some of the country’s coronavirus restrictions will be gradually relaxed from April 26th. But, while the government has given an outline of the reopening plan, many questions and uncertainties remain.

READ ALSO: Schools, restaurants, gyms, travel: Here’s Italy’s new timetable for reopening

The big news on Friday was that lower-risk ‘yellow’ zones will be reintroduced from next week – and in these areas, various restrictions will be lifted including the current closures of bars and restaurants across the country.

The nationwide ban on travel between regions will also no longer apply in yellow zones, Draghi said, adding that people could also be allowed to enter and leave areas which remain classed as higher-risk red and orange zones using a travel “pass”.

However, he didn’t give any details of what form this pass would take or what the requirements would be.

According to a new draft decree reported in Italian media this week, the document will certify that the holder had either been fully vaccinated, had tested negative for coronavirus within the past 48 hours, or had already contracted and recovered from Covid-19.

IN NUMBERS: Is it too soon for Italy to relax its coronavirus restrictions?

The pass is expected to be in the form of a paper document at first, before later being made available via an app or QR code.

The certificate will be valid for six months for those who are vaccinated or recovered, and it can be issued by the vaccination centre, or in the case of recovery, by a hospital, family doctor or pediatrician.

Certificates obtained by testing negative, meanwhile, are to be valid for 48 hours and can be issued by testing centres or pharmacies. 

What will the pass be needed for?

The document would need to be shown before boarding at airports or train stations, and if stopped by police at a checkpoint if travelling by car.

The government is also reportedly considering making the pass a requirement to attend certain cultural and sporting events, such as concerts and football matches, when they are allowed to reopen in yellow zones.

It is not yet clear when the new pass would be made available.

Further details on this and other aspects of Italy’s reopening plan are expected by Thursday, as ministers are currently finalising the country’s next emergency decree, due to come into force by Monday.

Italy has already launched some ‘Covid-free’ train services which only allow passengers to board if they can show a negative test certificate, and there are a limited number of ‘Covid-tested’ flights operating between Italy and the US:

Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

Is this the same thing as a vaccine passport?

Italy’s new pass is also expected to be valid for travel within Europe.

It would work similarly to the European Digital Green Certificates scheme, due to launch in June in hopes of making summer travel safer within the bloc.

The proposed EU travel certificates, expected to be available via an app, will have information on whether a traveller has been vaccinated or not, if they have received a negative test result, or if they have recovered from Covid-19.

Italy’s government has not yet confirmed whether it will take part in the European scheme, and the country’s health minister has previously suggested that Italy wants to implement a pass which would also open up travel from non-EU countries.

However it is not known if the new pass could later be used for travel to or from non-EU countries.

READ ALSO:

The idea of ‘vaccine passports’ has proved controversial in Italy, with many arguing that they would be discriminatory and unfair and also amount to coercion to take what is supposed to be a voluntary vaccine.

There are also concerns about the idea of vaccinated tourists being allowed into the country while many of Italy’s own residents are still unable to access a vaccine, amid delays and bureaucratic problems.

The Italian government has not yet confirmed any plans to relax the current restrictions on international travel to Italy, however.

The tourism minister last week suggested June 2nd as a possible date for restarting non-essential travel, but this is not confirmed.

Testing and quarantine are currently required for almost all arrivals, and these requirements are expected to stay in place for many travellers for some time yet as the speed of Italy’s vaccine rollout lags behind the European average.

For more information on the restrictions please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

Member comments

  1. If I have been vaccinated in the USA and am here on a work visa can I obtain a covid pass for travel to visit my relatives in a different zone?

  2. How do residents that have received vaccine from the US or other country get a COVID pass to travel? Will the US CDC vaccination card or printout from your doctor work?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Opposition leaders called for health undersecretary Marcello Gemmato to resign on Tuesday after the official said he was not "for or against" vaccines.

Italy's deputy health minister under fire after casting doubt on Covid vaccines

Gemmato, a pharmacist and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party, made the remark during an appearance on the political talkshow ReStart on Rai 2 on Monday evening.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

In a widely-shared clip, the official criticises the previous government’s approach to the Covid pandemic, claiming that for a large part of the crisis Italy had the highest death rate and third highest ‘lethality’ rate (the proportion of Covid patients who died of the disease).

When journalist Aldo Cazzullo interjects to ask whether the toll would have been higher without vaccines, Gemmato responds: “that’s what you say,” and claimed: “We do not have the reverse burden of proof.”

The undersecretary goes on to say that he won’t “fall into the trap of taking a side for or against vaccines”.

After Gemmato’s comments, the president of Italy’s National Federation of Medical Guilds, Filippo Anelli, stressed that official figures showed the Italian vaccination campaign had already prevented some 150,000 deaths, slashing the country’s potential death toll by almost half.

Vaccines also prevented eight million cases of Covid-19, over 500,000 hospitalisations, and more than 55,000 admissions to intensive care, according to a report from Italy’s national health institute (ISS) in April 2021.

Gemmato’s comments provoked calls for him to step down, including from the head of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.

“A health undersecretary who doesn’t take his distance from no-vaxxers is certainly in the wrong job” wrote the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, on Twitter.

Infectious disease expert Matteo Bassetti of Genoa’s San Martino clinic also expressed shock.

“How is it possible to say that there is no scientific proof that vaccines have helped save the lives of millions of people? You just have to read the scientific literature,” Bassetti tweeted. 

In response to the backlash, Gemmato on Tuesday put out a statement saying he believes “vaccines are precious weapons against Covid” and claiming that his words were taken out of context and misused against him.

The Brothers of Italy party was harshly critical of the previous government’s approach to handling the Covid crisis, accusing the former government of using the pandemic as an excuse to “limit freedom” through its use of the ‘green pass’, a proof of vaccination required to access public spaces. 

But since coming into power, Meloni appears to have significantly softened her stance.

Her appointee for health minister, Orazio Schillaci, is a medical doctor who formed part of the team advising the Draghi administration on its handling of the pandemic.

Schillaci, a former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Rome’s Tor Vergata University, has described the former government’s green pass scheme as an “indispensable tool for guaranteeing safety in university classrooms”.

Speaking at a session of the G20 on Tuesday, Meloni referenced the role of vaccines in bringing an end to the Covid pandemic.

“Thanks to the extraordinary work of health personnel, vaccines, prevention, and the accountability of citizens, life has gradually returned to normal,’ the prime minister said in a speech.

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