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Italy cracks down on Covid green pass protests

After one protest against Italy’s health pass sparked a Covid outbreak and others affected businesses and cultural sites, the government has ordered a clampdown.

Anti-green pass protestors walk past restaurants in Milan.
Anti-green pass protestors walk past restaurants in Milan on October 16th, 2021. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI/AFP

Protests against Italy’s Covid-19 health certificate, called the ‘green pass’, will be restricted from this weekend under orders from Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.

New measures will prevent protestors from entering shopping areas or historic centres and mean demonstrations are limited to sit-ins, rather than marches or rallies, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday.

EXPLAINED: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

The ministry stated that the new rules are intended to “guarantee the rights of those who disagree, while protecting economic activity and the health of citizens”.

The rules also allow authorities to require protestors to wear masks at outdoor rallies.

The clampdown follows lobbying from Confcommercio, Italy’s retail confederation, which said the repeated disruption from demonstrations was impacting trade on weekends.

Confcommercio president Carlo Sangalli told Corriere della Sera: “Saturdays alone are worth more than 25 percent of weekly turnover for the retail and restaurant sectors, so the damage caused is very clear. Meanwhile we’re still feeling the consequences of the pandemic and risk a new surge.”

The number of protests against Italy’s health pass has risen in recent weeks following the expansion of the pass requirement to all workplaces.

The demonstrations, which tend to be relatively small but frequent and often disruptive, have now become a regular sight in central Milan, Rome and beyond.

Anti-green pass protestors in Turin’s Piazza Porta Palazzo on September 11th, 2021. Photo: Tino ROMANO/ANSA /AFP

The largest such protest, held in Rome on October 8th, attracted around 10,000 people. It later descended into violence as protestors affiliated with neo-fascist groups attacked buildings and clashed with police.

READ ALSO: Riots put Italian government under pressure to ban neo-fascist groups

Rome authorities rerouted all subsequent protest marches away from “sensitive” buildings such as government offices and trade union headquarters.

Protestors taking part in these marches have also been widely condemned for regularly comparing themselves to holocaust victims.

Protestors take part in an anti-green pass demonstration in Rome called by far-right Forza Nuova activists. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Another large protest called by dock workers in the northern port city of Trieste attracted an estimated 7,000 people at its height and continued for several days, causing disruption to businesses using the port.

A coronavirus outbreak linked to the port protest is so far known to have resulted in 200 positive Covid cases and five hospitalisations, and made Trieste the centre of a surge in cases that risks new restrictions being applied to the surrounding Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.

The city’s newly elected centre-right mayor Roberto Dipiazza subsequently banned protests in the central square, Piazza Unità d’Italia, saying they had “damaged the image of the city and threaten to take us backwards,” news agency Ansa reports, while the local prefecture said protestors had “launched objects” at protected cultural sites and were endangering the city’s heritage.

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COVID-19 GREEN PASS

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.

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