Fears of ‘chaos’ as Italy set to adopt tough Covid green pass regime

Italy will require all workers to show a Covid-19 health pass from Friday, one of the world's toughest anti-Covid regimes that has already sparked riots and which many fear will cause "chaos".

People wave national flags during a protest in central Rome
People wave national flags during a protest in central Rome on October 9, 2021 against Italy's mandatory sanitary pass called "green pass" in the aim to limit the spread of the Covid-19. Tiziana FABI / AFP

More than 85 percent of Italians over the age of 12 have received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, making them eligible for the so-called Green Pass certificate.

But according to various estimates, about 2.5 million of the country’s 23 million workers are unvaccinated, and risk being denied access to the workplace from October 15.

“You have no idea of the chaos that we will have in firms,” the president of the heavily industrialised northern Veneto region, Luca Zaia, said recently.

Unvaccinated workers can still get a Green Pass by getting tested for coronavirus or with a certificate of recovery, if they contracted the virus within the previous six months.

CLICK HERE for more articles on the Covid-19 green pass in Italy

If they instead opt to qualify though testing, they have to take them at their own expense, and repeat them every 48 hours.

Zaia suggested there was not enough testing capacity to meet potential demand, raising the prospect of mass absenteeism from work.

“The entrepreneurs I talk to are very worried,” he said.

Green passes are already required for teachers and other school workers, and for other activities such as eating indoors in bars and restaurants, or going to the cinema, museums and football games.

Avoid lockdowns

But they are not popular, at least among a sizeable minority — as shown by last Saturday’s riots in Rome, where an anti-pass demonstration degenerated into an assault on the CGIL trade union building led by the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party.

Anyone caught in the workplace without a Green Pass risks fines ranging from 600 to 1,500 euros ($700-1700).

And those who fail to turn up for work because they don’t have one face suspension on no pay — but cannot be fired.

Meanwhile, employers can be fined 400-1,000 euros for not checking if their staff comply with the rules.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi opted for compulsory Covid passes last month in a bid to prevent further lockdowns and support Italy’s recovery from a record 8.9-percent recession last year.

The measure, which follows a similar initiative introduced in Greece last month, was also intended to boost vaccination rates.

Business lobby Confindustria has been among the staunchest backers of the Green Pass in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by coronavirus with more than 130,000 deaths.

The focus is on “creating workplaces that are as safe as possible… because it is the only way to ensure public health and economic recovery,” vice president Maurizio Stirpe told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Trade unions, on the other hand, have been sceptical. They first called for a blanket rule forcing all Italians to get jabbed, arguing that option would have avoided discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers.

Threats from dock workers

But the government has stopped short of that, partly because one of the members of Draghi’s left-right coalition government, the nationalist League party of Matteo Salvini, opposed compulsory vaccines.

Once the government ignored the unions’ advice, worker representatives successfully requested that unvaccinated employees should be suspended rather than fired.

But the unions failed to secure free Covid tests for workers that they wanted the state or employers to pay for.

“Personally, I will get tested,” Stefano, one of the people who protested in Rome last week, told AFP. But he complained that it was “absurd” for him to have to pay to continue doing his job.

So far, only dock workers in Trieste have been offered the possibility of free Covid tests, but they are still threatening to block all activities in their port, a major hub in the northeast, from October 15.

Meanwhile, there are concerns violence could break out again next Saturday, when the anti-pass movement is planning further protests and unions are preparing for a big anti-fascist rally in Rome. 

Member comments

  1. Bravo,well said! . Your description could be applied to the EU as a whole, the US and certainly individual governments. Sadly the masses, for the most part are as compliant as sheep.

    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

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Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.