Italian government to make decision on Covid ‘green pass’ expansion as new cases rise

The Italian government is meeting on Thursday afternoon to make a final decision on its plan to require people to show a Covid-19 ‘green pass’ in order to visit more cultural or leisure venues.

Italian government to make decision on Covid 'green pass' expansion as new cases rise
The EU health pass is currently used for quarantine-free travel but several countries are now expanding its use. Photo: Alain Jocard/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’.

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

An announcement had been expected earlier this week, but discussions are still ongoing on Thursday amid resistence from regional authorities to some aspects of the government’s plan.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is now set to meet with government ministers  at 5pm on Thursday to make final decisions on the plan, with a televised announcement expected after that.

The government has been looking at implementing a ‘French-style’ expansion of the green pass scheme, which could mean making the vaccine passport compulsory in order to access domestic flights, long-distance trains, nightclubs, gyms, and indoor seating in restaurants.

But regional presidents have now reportedly asked the government to make the pass necessary only “to safely allow the resumption of activities which were previously limited or not permitted”, including sporting events, concerts, nightclubs, fairs and conferences. So not at everyday venues like restaurants, cinemas, theaters, gyms, or swimming pools.

But many senior politicians, including the health minister, are pushing for more extensive use of the pass, which they say would enable them to keep all regions in the low-restricion ‘white’ zone, reports news agency Ansa.

Ansa cited a government source as saying the goal is “to have a solid system that allows for safe coexistence with the virus,” saying a limited use of the green pass would not work if the goverment were to also relax the criteria for regions to be declared risk zones, as planned.

Another sticking point is whether or not 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 change, which the health ministry first suggested a month ago, would bring Italian rules in line with those in most other European countries.

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

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

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy’s 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.

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.

READ ALSO: Most people in Italy support extended Covid ‘green pass’ plan, polls find

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

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).


Italian government begins talks on Covid ‘super green pass’

Italy is set to tighten the rules on its health certificate scheme from December as Covid-19 contagion and hospitalisation rates continue to rise.

Employees in Italy must show Covid health passes to access workplaces.
Employees in Italy must show Covid health passes to access workplaces - but are the rules about to get stricter? Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Note: This article is no longer being updated. Please find the latest news here.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will hold a meeting with regional leaders on Monday evening, beginning several days of talks on a new government decree which is expected to be announced by Friday, reports national broadcaster Rai.

As the health situation has worsened across Italy in recent weeks – particularly in the north-eastern regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto and the autonomous province of Bolzano – leaders of local governments are increasingly pushing for new measures, mainly in the form of further restrictions on the unvaccinated under a so-called “super green pass” scheme.

KEY POINTS: Italy’s new plans to contain the Covid fourth wave

Italy began rolling out its health certificate or ‘green pass’ for domestic use in August, initially making it a requirement at many leisure and cultural venues such as cinemas and indoor restaurants, before extending its use to workplaces and some forms of public transport. 

The certificate shows that the bearer has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recovered from the disease within the last six months, or has tested negative in the last few days.

Instead, the proposed ‘super green pass’ would only be issued to those who are vaccinated or recovered, with passes issued based on testing in future only valid for entry to workplaces.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

While no concrete decisions have yet been made, sources within the health ministry have indicated that it is considering the measure for any region declared a higher-risk ‘orange’ zone.

“Closures and restrictions must not be paid for by the vaccinated,” said Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa, adding that the ‘super green pass’ plan would “guarantee the unvaccinated access to workplaces and basic needs, but certain activities such as going to a restaurant, cinema or theatre should be reserved for the vaccinated if the situation worsens.”

“It is clear that we must bring in new initiatives,” he said in an interview with Sky TG24 on Sunday.

EXPLAINED: Will Italy bring in a Covid lockdown for the unvaccinated?

At the moment all of Italy remains in the lowest-risk ‘white’ zone, with few health measures in place.

However several regions are now nearing the thresholds at which they would be moved into the ‘yellow’ zone next week, and – if the situation continues to worsen – then risk being placed under orange zone restrictions two weeks later.

Costa said a planned third dose obligation for health workers “is already foreseen and I think it will be approved this week.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza put forward proposals last week to make third doses obligatory for the healthcare staff already subject to a vaccine requirement, and also to cut the validity of Italy’s Covid-19 health certificate – the so-called green pass – from 12 to nine months for people who are vaccinated, including with a third dose.

READ ALSO: Italy to start Covid boosters for over-40s on Monday as infection rate rises

The changes have not yet been formally approved, but are expected to come in from December 1st under the planned new decree set to be signed into law by the end of the week.

Other measures the government is reportedly considering include cutting the validity of green passes based on PCR test results from 72 to 48 hours, and those from the results of rapid testing will be reduced from 48 to 24 hours.

There have also been calls from health experts and regional leaders to stop issuing green passes based on rapid test results altogether, as these are less reliable than the results of a PCR test.