Covid-19: Italy prepares to expand ‘green pass’ scheme as new cases rise

The Italian government is finalising details on Wednesday of its plan to require people to show a Covid-19 ‘green pass’ in order to visit cultural or leisure venues, and potentially also for domestic travel.

Covid-19: Italy prepares to expand 'green pass' scheme as new cases rise
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italy is planning to require people to show proof of full vaccination, testing or recovery in order to enter more venues as early as next week under an expansion of the use of its certificazione verde or ‘green certificate’.

The change could make showing a digital ‘green pass’ compulsory to access domestic flight, long-distance trains, nightclubs, gyms, sports stadiums and even possible indoor seating in restaurants. 

EXPLAINED: What people vaccinated in Italy need to do to get the Covid ‘green pass’ travel certificate

The government is also reportedly considering making the health pass mandatory for passengers on long-distance trains and domestic flights.

Under the rule changes, the government is expected to make the green pass available in the case of vaccination only for those who are fully immunised – instead of 15 days after the first dose as is currently the case. This would bring Italian rules in line with those in most other European countries.

While nothing has yet been officially confirmed, Italian media reports suggest the timing of the new decree means changes could come into effect as soon as next Monday, July 26th.

Ministers are reportedly still debating various details of the new decree on Wednesday, and an announcement is now expected to come on Thursday.

The expansion of the green pass is being discussed along with new risk parameters for Italy’s regions and an extension of the national state of emergency possibly until the end of this year.

The new decree may also include a requirement for teaching staff to be vaccinated ahead of the start of the new school year.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The green pass has been in use since June 17th, but at present it is only needed for international travel within Europe, and in Italy it can be used to access care homes or large events like concerts, sports matches and wedding receptions.

Italy has been looking at ways to expand the use of the health pass after France last week announced a similar extension to its version of the scheme in order to slow rising infection rates and to encourage vaccinations.

Italian health authorities have said that extending the health pass scheme could be a useful way to give unvaccinated people an extra incentive to book a jab, though the main purpose is thought to be avoiding reinstating blanket restrictions during the peak summer holiday season.

Analysis: How much longer will all of Italy remain a Covid-19 ‘white zone’?

As Italy enters a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, fuelled by the more contagious Delta variant, several regions are nearing the threshold at which some health measures would need to be brought back under the country’s four-tiered system of restrictions.

The number of new coronavirus infections recorded in Italy has doubled over the past week, with the national average now at 29 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

With significant variations in the numbers between regions, the areas seeing the sharpest rises in cases currently are Sardinia, Sicily, Veneto. Campania and Lazio, according to the most recent weekly health data report published by the Higher Health Institute (ISS) and Italian health ministry.

For now, every part of Italy is currently classed as a low-risk ‘white’ zone.

If regions turn ‘yellow’, renewed restrictions would include restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants and a return of the requirement to wear masks outdoors in all public places.

With concerns about the impact this might have on businesses, the health ministry is now planning to change the ‘yellow zone’ criteria.

The EU Digital Covid Health Certificate is currently being used for quarantine-travel across the EU, but several countries are planning to expand its use. Photo: Denis LOVROVIC/AFP

Health Minister Roberto Speranza confirmed on Sunday that, under a revision of the zone system, hospitalisation and intensive care occupancy rates will become more important factors in deciding whether to impose new restrictions.

“The number of infected people is rising, especially among children, but in most cases there is no need for hospitalisation and for this reason we have chosen to leave businesses open, favouring those who decide to inoculate themselves in order to prevent the circulation of the virus,” Speranza told reporters on Sunday.

The government is hoping that the extended green pass system and altered parameters will be enough to keep restrictions low and businesses open until at least the Ferragosto holiday in mid-August, according to Italian media reports.

READ ALSO: What do Italians think of the extended Covid ‘green pass’ scheme?

However, the plan to expand the green pass has faced criticism from some experts who point out that many people are still facing long waits for vaccination appointments, while free testing is not available in every region or city.

Many people who have been vaccinated are also reporting having trouble accessing the digital green pass due to missing access codes and other technical problems.

Meanwhile there are questions about how the scheme could be enforced in practice, as commentators argue that only police, and not business owners, would have the right to check health passes.

Who can use Italy’s ‘green pass’?

At the moment Italy’s digital health certificate is available to people who were vaccinated, tested or recovered in Italy.

People from EU and Schengen zone countries, as well as the US, Canada and Japan, can also enter Italy and access venues under ‘green pass’ terms but need to show equivalent health documents issued in their own country.

It appears likely that these rules will remain the same for visitors under the expanded scheme, though nothing has yet been officially confirmed.

Find further details about Italy’s green certificate on the official website (currently only available in Italian).

For more information about the current coronavirus situation and health measures in Italy please see the Health Ministry’s website (in English).


Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.