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COVID-19

Vaccine bookings spike after Italy extends Covid green pass

Bookings for coronavirus vaccines in Italy spiked this week after the government said all employees must show proof of a jab, negative test or recent recovery from Covid-19, authorities said.

Vaccine bookings spike after Italy extends Covid green pass
A protests against vaccine mandates in Rome in August. Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

“On a national level, there was a generalised increase in bookings for the first dose of between 20 and 40 percent compared to last week,” coronavirus commissioner Francesco Figliuolo said in a statement late Saturday.

Reservations for the first dose of the vaccine on Saturday were up 35 percent on the same time a week earlier, he added, without giving the actual figure.

SEE ALSO: ‘The fourth wave is contained’: Italy reports falling Covid infection rates for a second week

Almost 41 million people in Italy have so far been fully vaccinated, government data shows — close to 76 percent of the population over the age of 12.

But authorities remain concerned about the hold-outs ahead of the winter flu season, and this week extended the so-called “Green Pass” to all public and private workplaces.

Introduced in August initially for indoor restaurant dining, museums and sports events, the pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative Covid-19 test or recent recovery from the virus.

This week, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government agreed to extend it to all workplaces from October 15, with employees who refuse to comply considered to be absent without pay.

Those exempt from the vaccine for health reasons will be given free coronavirus tests.

Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic in February 2020 and has the worst recorded death toll in the European Union, at more than 130,000.

The economy was plunged into a deep recession caused by lockdowns last year but with case numbers largely under control since the spring, growth is forecast to jump this year, aided by a huge injection of EU recovery funds.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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