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HEALTHCARE

Italy says diplomats and Italians who live abroad can get vaccinated without a health card

As people outside the public health system struggle to access Covid-19 vaccines in Italy, the government has said that certain categories can book their jab despite not having all the paperwork – but only a specific few.

Italy says diplomats and Italians who live abroad can get vaccinated without a health card
A vaccination centre in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

In its first official guidance on how people who aren’t enrolled in the national health service should get vaccinated, Italy has issued an ordinance that makes exceptions for a few select groups.

Italian citizens who usually live abroad and are only in Italy temporarily will be allowed to book a shot even without the tessera sanitaria (healthcare card) that is usually required, according to the new ordinance, dated April 24th and signed by Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo.

READ ALSO: ‘We need ammunition’: Jabs for over-60s postponed as Italian regions run out of vaccines

Current and retired employees of European Union institutions or other international organizations living in Italy, as well as foreign diplomats, can also book without a health card. So can any of their dependent family members living here with them.

People in these categories will be able to register for vaccination using only their codice fiscale (tax code) or passport, cross-checked as applicable against their employer’s records or the AIRE (Registry of Italians Resident Abroad).

The usual priority order continues to apply, meaning that only people in high-risk age groups, clinically vulnerable people or people who work in schools or healthcare are currently eligible to get vaccinated.

These limited exceptions do not help others living in Italy without a tessera sanitaria, including foreign residents who have been unable to join the public health system because of bureaucratic delays or different regional rules.

READ ALSO: 

People wait at a vaccination hub set up outside Rome’s Termini railway station. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

While Italy has promised that everyone will be offered a vaccine regardless of nationality or immigration status, so far it has only allowed residents who are registered for public healthcare to book an appointment.

That has left residents who are outside the system, especially foreign retirees, unable to get vaccinated despite being in a high-priority category. People in this situation are still waiting to find out whether Italy will make arrangements for them to book, or whether they will have to wait months for jabs to become available on a walk-in basis.

OPINION: Bureaucratic barriers must not stop Italy vaccinating its foreign residents

The latest ordinance at least sets a precedent for booking vaccination without a health card, including allowing different government bodies to share records instead of using only tessera sanitaria databases.

To qualify for vaccination, the ordinance states, Italian nationals who don’t live in Italy must be registered on the AIRE. It is presumably aimed at Italians who have left homes overseas to wait out the pandemic in Italy.

The Local is continuing to follow this issue and will post any new updates on how to get vaccinated without a health card as they appear. Find more coverage of Italy’s vaccination campaign here.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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