UPDATE: Italy tightens Covid green pass rules on public transport

The Italian government has updated the Covid green pass rules on public transport and may also reduce the validity of passes, with changes aimed at slowing the infection rate before Christmas.

Passengers on Italy's high-speed trains must now show a health certificate before boarding.
Passengers on Italy's high-speed trains must now show a health certificate before boarding. Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Monday afternoon signed a new ordinance updating some of the rules on using the Covid-19 health certificate, or green pass, on public transport.

Taxis face stricter passenger limits and trains can be stopped if any passengers show suspected Covid symptoms, according to the ordinance seen by news agency Ansa.

Train staff should now verify passengers’ health passes before boarding and not after during ticket inspections, as has been the case so far, in stations “where this is possible”.

The checks will be carried out at major train stations with ticket barriers, including Rome Termini and Florence Santa Maria Novella, Ansa reports.

The rules apply to long-distance and interregional train passengers, but not to those taking local services.

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

The ordinance also reportedly states that railway police and local health authorities can stop any train on which passengers are found to ‘present symptoms attributable to the coronavirus” and the train company will need to “sanitise the train before putting it back into operation”.

Taxi drivers are required to have a valid green pass and instructed to wear surgical-grade masks, as well as to “avoid” letting passengers sit in the front seat.

Only two passengers can sit in the back of a taxi, the ordinance says, “if not members of the same family unit”.

Ministers are also reportedly planning to tighten the green pass rules further, potentially from December, amid the recent sharp rise in the contagion rate.

Italy’s green pass, a requirement at workplaces, indoor resturants and leisure venues and on some forms of public transport, is available to those who are vaccinated, recovered, or have tested negative, either with a PCR test or a rapid (antigenic) swab test.

Changes being discussed reportedly include reducing the validity of passes for the vaccinated from one year to nine months.

The validity of passes issued following a negative PCR test result may also be cut from 72 to 48 hours, and those from the results of rapid testing will be reduced from 48 to 24 hours, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The Italian government has not confirmed this, however, and it was not included in Monday’s ordinance.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

On Monday, Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa played down reports that the rules were being tightened further and said the health situation in in Italy was “under control”.

“We should look to the coming weeks with confidence while being aware that we certainly have not emerged from the pandemic,” he told Radio 24.

But he added that Covid vaccines could still become obligatory for some, under plans the government has been considering since late summer.

Ministers have repeatedly indicated that Italy is unlikely to face new restrictions on travel and business openings like those seen during the Christmas ‘red zone’ lockdown last year.

READ ALSO: Is Italy likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

The picture is very different this time, health experts say, with infection and hospitalisation rates markedly lower by comparison and the vast majority of the population vaccinated.

Instead, this year Italian authorities will continue to rely on the Covid green pass system and widening vaccination coverage in order to keep infection and hospitalisation rates down and businesses open.

As the pass became a requirement at all workplaces in October, the Italian government refused to cover the cost of testing for employees who decline vaccination, but instead began issuing passes based on the results of rapid swab tests as well as the more accurate – and expensive – PCR tests. 

Those who choose not to be vaccinated must currently pay for a rapid test every 48 hours or face suspension from work.

But health experts have expressed concern that issuing passes based on rapid test results could be partly fuelling the recent rise in infections.

Walter Ricciardi, a professor of hygiene and preventive medicine and a health advisor to the Italian government, said last week that the green pass system needs to be “corrected”.

Making the pass available using rapid tests “gives a false sense of security”, he said, as they have a 30 percent false negative rate.

“Especially with the Delta variant, if you enter a place where there are susceptible people, with a false negative test result, infection occurs.”

READ ALSO: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

As Italy’s hospitalisation rates have begun rising again in recent weeks, health experts are once again warning people to avoid socialising if they’re not vaccinated and to continue to wear masks in public.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Sunday warned that the scale of the fourth wave will depend on individuals’ behaviour.

“My recommendation is to use masks as much as possible, because the situation over the next few weeks is insidious,” he said.

What about travel restrictions?

France on Monday tightened entry rules for unvaccinated visitors from a number of EU countries, and many people are now wondering whether Italy may do the same.

Italy’s current set of travel rules is in place until December 15th, meaning there is scope for the government to change the rules shortly before the holidays.

However at this stage there are no reports which suggest the Italian government is discussing any changes to the rules.

At the moment, restrictions on travel to Italy from most countries are minimal for those who are vaccinated.


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.