‘Draghi effect’: Protests in Italy – but also surge in vaccine bookings after PM’s health pass announcement

Protests were held around Italy on Saturday after the government unveiled plans to require the health passport for entry to venues including restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

‘Draghi effect’: Protests in Italy - but also surge in vaccine bookings after PM's health pass announcement
A protester in Rome holds a placard reading 'Shit Green Pass'. Photo: Filippo Monteforte

After Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday announced an expansion of the country’s health passport scheme and urged people to get vaccinated or face a new lockdown, protests were organised in dozens of towns and cities across the country.

“Better to die free than live like slaves!” read one placard held up outside Milan’s cathedral, while another in Rome’s historic centre read “Vaccines set you free” over a picture of the gates to Auschwitz.

The vast majority of protesters were not wearing masks, AFP reports.

A demonstration inside Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall on July 24th, 2021. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Meanwhile, online vaccination booking portals were reportedly struggling to cope with demand for appointments on Friday and Saturday due to what Italian media is calling the “Draghi effect”.

at least half a million vaccination appointments were made in the 24 hours following Draghi’s televised address, according to Italy’s coronavirus emergency commissioner.

EXPLAINED: When, where and why will you need a Covid health passport in Italy?

“Today we registered an increase in bookings ranging from +15% to +200% depending on the region. In Friuli Venezia Giulia we registered +6,000%”. Emergency Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told Italian news show Tg5 on Friday evening.

More than 100,000 appointments were booked in the regions of Lazio and Lombardy alone, Figliuolo said.

Draghi on Thursday night urged people to “get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated”, as he and Health Minister Roberto Speranza outlined plans for expanding the use of the ‘green pass’ within Italy.

Far-right group Forza Nuova leads a demonstration against the green pass in Rome on July 24th, 2021. Photo: Filippo MONTEFORTE/AFP

From August 6th, people in Italy will need the pass to enter gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other public venues, including indoor seating areas at bars and restaurants.

It will serve as proof that bearers have either been vaccinated, undergone a recent negative Covid-19 test, or recovered from Covid-19.

Business owners are expected to enforce the rules or face fines of up to 1,000 euros under the decree adopted by the cabinet this week.

The government hopes the expansion of the ‘green pass’ scheme will persuade more people to book their vaccinations as health ministry data showed a recent slowdown in the number of first jabs administered.


Draghi said the scheme was also being expanded as an alternative to new restrictions and business closures as the number of new cases recorded in the country has spiked.

”The use of vaccine certificates is needed to keep the economy open,” Draghi said,

He said the alternative to the green pass and more vaccination would be the return of health restrictions, stating: “No vaccines mean a new lockdown”.

Draghi also had strong words for anyone encouraging others to avoid getting vaccinated, saying: “An invitation not to get vaccinated is an invitation to die, or to let others die.”

READ ALSO:  How big is Italy’s anti-vax movement really?

Protesters walk past a restaurant in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Piedmont regional governor Alberto Cirio said the government’s anouncement “had the effect of doubling the requests for vaccinations.”

“Every hour on our portal we’re registering double the number compared to the average of the previous days,” he told news agency Ansa.

Vice-President of the Lombardy Region Letizia Moratti wrote on Twitter on Friday that “participation in the vaccination campaign is growing, yesterday about 49,000 citizens signed up. To meet these new requests, an additional 100,000 new appointments will be made available for first doses from today until the end of August ”

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing populist League party, got vaccinated on Friday according to Italian media reports.

Similar measures announced in France by President Emmanuel Macron last week sparked protests, but also dramatically increased the number of vaccination bookings.

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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.