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COVID-19 VACCINES

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).

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COVID-19 RULES

Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

After Italy recently removed most Covid-related restrictions, readers have been asking us what exactly to expect on upcoming visits. Here are your questions answered.

Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

Rules around travel to Italy and within the country have changed multiple times over the past two years. Unsurprisingly, they changed again just over a week ago.

On May 1st, Italy removed nearly all of its Covid-related social restrictions, including the so-called ‘green pass’ (or certificato verde), which was previously required to enter most venues across the country.

READ ALSO: Dining outdoors and hiking: How visitors plan to holiday in Italy this summer 

As the bel paese moves past its former state of emergency and opens up again to international tourism, we asked readers whether they’ll be travelling to Italy this summer. Most said yes, although some of you had doubts and reservations about the Covid restrictions currently in place.

And you had some questions for us, too – mainly about what to expect once you arrive in the country.

Below are our answers, based on the Italian government’s latest decree and the current advice from the health ministry.

If you’re looking for a detailed look at the entry rules when travelling to Italy this summer, please find more information here.

Q: Does Italy still have vaccine requirements in place?

A: A valid Covid vaccination or recovery certificate will be required to enter Italy until at least May 31st, when the current travel rules expire. 

As for travelling within Italy, as of May 1st, a valid health certificate is no longer required to access indoor venues and transport services. All visitors are free to travel across the country and enter restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and other indoor locations without having to provide a valid health pass.

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

The only exception is for hospitals and care homes, which will continue to require a ‘green pass’ or its equivalent in the form of a foreign-issued vaccine or recovery certificate until December 2022.

Q: What kind of masks do you have to wear when travelling by train?

A: The use of FFP2 face masks is mandatory on all means of public transport, so not just trains but also buses, ferries and so on. Those equipped with a different type of face covering will be prevented from using the service.

The obligation to wear face masks on public transport will remain in place until at least June 15th.

Please note that FFP2 face masks are also required to enter the following indoor venues: cinemas, theatres, entertainment and sport venues (but not museums or galleries).

READ ALSO: Where do you still need to wear a mask in Italy from May 1st?

Q: Will more restaurants and shops be closed than normal?  

A: No, quite the contrary. After a couple of rather grim years, things are apparently once again looking up for Italian tourism. 

According to a survey from market research institute Demoskopika, the number of domestic and international tourists in Italy is set to rise by 43 percent compared to 2021. The first signs of such expected recovery manifested themselves over the Easter holidays, when some of the most popular Italian tourist destinations recorded ‘pre-pandemic’ numbers of visitors. 

So, to answer the question, most local businesses will look to capitalise on the renewed inflow of both international and national tourists and will therefore keep their doors (and hearts, hopefully) open.

View of the bars in the Navigli area, Milan

After a couple of rather bleak years, bars and restaurants are ready to welcome back international visitors. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Q: I’m vaccinated but not ‘boosted’ and want to know if this is acceptable.

A: It is indeed. 

For the sake of clarity, here are the current rules on the topic.

Until at least May 31st when the rules expire (they may either be scrapped or extended after this point; The Local will provide updates when the deadline approaches), travellers may enter the country if they are asymptomatic and can present one of the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate recognised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Presently, EMA recognises the following vaccines: Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, Vaxzevria Johnson and Johnson, Astrazeneca and Novavax. Please keep in mind that the minimum requirement is that you have fully completed the primary vaccination cycle (in this case, your pass will be valid for 9 months). For those who have already received a booster shot, the certificate is valid indefinitely.
  • A valid medical certificate confirming recovery from Covid (this is valid for 6 months from the positive swab test)
  • A negative molecular (PCR) test carried out within 72 hours of arrival in Italy or a rapid antigen test carried out within 48 hours of arrival

As previously mentioned, you won’t need a health pass (nor negative test result) to travel across the country.

Q: What type of health pass is needed for indoor dining from May?

A: None. No vaccination or recovery certificate is required to access bars and restaurants. Face masks are also no longer mandatory. 

Having said that, the use of face coverings in all indoor settings is still “strongly recommended” by the government. Furthermore, some local businesses have chosen to independently enforce stricter rules and only allow people equipped with a face mask to enter their premises.

Q: What are the current restrictions for hotels, restaurants and museums? 

A: There are no Covid-related restrictions (that is, not even face masks) for hotels, restaurants and museums.

However, as mentioned above, some businesses may choose to enforce their own rules and ask customers to wear a face covering. So, keep this in mind before you waltz into your local grocery store without a mask.

Musei Capitolini in Rome

Health certificates are no longer required to enter indoor venues, including museums and galleries. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Q: What are the isolation rules if you test positive while visiting Italy?

A: If you test positive for Covid during your trip, you will have to self-isolate at your existing accommodation and notify the relevant local authorities (Aziende Sanitarie Locali, ASL) as soon as possible.

The Italian quarantine instructions are a bit of a head-scratcher, therefore we’ll try to summarise them as follows:

  • Those who have received a ‘booster shot’, have completed the first vaccination cycle no more than 120 days prior to testing positive or have recovered from Covid no more than 120 days prior to testing positive will be required to self-isolate for at least seven days. 
  • All others will be required to self-isolate for at least 10 days, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

You’ll be able to exit your quarantine period by taking a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

However, note that you will only be allowed to take such tests if you’ve shown no symptoms in the three days prior to the supposed date of the test. If you have, your self-isolation period will be extended. 

For instance, if you’re supposed to get tested on the tenth day of your quarantine but show symptoms on the ninth, you’ll only be able to get tested on the twelfth.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

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