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EXPLAINED: How do Italy’s new Covid rules affect tourists?

Following Italy's introduction of the new 'super green pass' aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, many readers have contacted The Local to ask how it will affect tourists. Here's what we know so far about how visitors can navigate the system.

EXPLAINED: How do Italy's new Covid rules affect tourists?
How tourists to Italy will be affected by the 'super green pass' rules. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

Italian authorities last week approved new and tighter restrictions for those who are not vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19 under a change to the country’s green pass system.

The new rules are set to take effect under a new decree in force from December 6th until at least January 15th.

Italy’s health certificate or ‘green pass’ will no longer allow access to leisure and cultural venues (such as theatres and indoor restaurants) and to long-distance public transport (including high-speed trains) unless the bearer is vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19.

Q&A: How does Italy’s new Covid ‘super green pass’ work?

And green pass requirements will also apply to hotels and local public transport for the first time – though in these cases, passes generated based on a negative test result are accepted.

Under the new rules, passes issued based on negative test results will only be valid for entry to workplaces, public transport and other venues deemed “essential”.

See a full breakdown of the green pass requirements in Italy in a separate article here.

So what does this mean for foreign visitors?

At the moment, green pass rules apply equally to everyone in Italy regardless of residency or nationality, so foreign tourists are also required to show a health pass or equivalent proof of vaccination, with some variation to the rules depending on the country you come from.

Although the government has not explicitly stated that the new ‘super green pass’ rules will apply to foreign visitors in Italy – nor is there a mention of this in the decree text – it appears unlikely that anything will change in this regard.

Otherwise, we could see the scenario of an Italian resident not being able to go into a restaurant or cinema, while a non-Italian tourist wouldn’t face the same restrictions.

However, it’s important to note that the incoming ‘super green pass’ changes in December relate only to domestic rules within Italy. Green pass requirements remain the same for travel and entry to Italy at the moment.

This is because the rules covering the use of health passes for cross-border travel are decided separately at the European level.

According to the European Commission, “a person in possession of a valid Covid green pass should in principle not be subject to further restrictions”.

It says: “Member States shall refrain from imposing any further travel restrictions on holders of an EU Covid digital certificate, unless these are necessary and proportionate to protect public health” and, in such a case, states must “inform the Commission and all other members and justify such a decision”.

This does not necessarily mean that these rules won’t also change. An announcement is expected on changes to the EU-wide health pass system for travel amid the worsening health situation.

As EU countries begin to impose new travel restrictions on each other, the European Commission says it recognises the need to tighten the rules of its Covid certificate.

For the latest on how this system could change, see here.

Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

How can visitors use the Italian green pass system?

A more immediate concern for those with trips to Italy booked soon may be whether and how passes (or equivalent documents) issued in their home countries will be recognised at museums, restaurants, hotels and ski resorts once in Italy.

The rules on whether or not a health pass or vaccination card is recognised in Italy depend on which country you’re visiting from.

Most foreign visitors should not need the Italian version of the health pass for travel and leisure purposes.

EXPLAINED: What documents can non-EU visitors use as a Covid pass in Italy?

In theory Italy recognises all equivalent digital health passes from other EU countries and proof of immunisation issued from any of these five non-EU countries, including on paper.

And when Italy’s ‘green pass’ system was first introduced, many tourists reported getting turned away from venues as their health certificate wasn’t recognised. 

Visitors who do not have an EU health pass or documents from one of the five recognised non-EU countries can currently get an Italian green pass after testing negative – but passes based on test results will no longer be valid in cases where ‘super green pass’ rules apply.

The only other option available currently is to apply to have your foreign-issued vaccination certificate converted into an Italian green pass by local health authorities – however this is currently only allowed once you are in the country.

Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Holders of existing ‘green passes’ or equivalents based on vaccination or recovery will not need to do anything to access the ‘super green pass’. Italy is updating its digital systems ready to read QR codes that conform to the new rules.

The QR code itself will not be changed, but a new reading system, an update on Italy’s current Verifica C-19 app, is now available for situations where the ‘super green pass’ requirement applies.

The software update will validate only those certificates issued to those vaccinated and recovered.

This app is only to be used by businesses, but users can download to test if it reads their Covid health pass ahead of travel.

Do the ‘super green pass’ rules apply to children visiting Italy?

Italy’s current green pass rules do not apply to under-12s and this will remain the case under the new decree. If vaccinations are approved for under-12s, green pass rules and vaccine requirements will still not apply to this age group.

Under the current rules, the green pass requirement applies to everyone over 12, including tourists and non-resident visitors.

However, what does this mean for children over 12 travelling to Italy but without an equivalent Covid-19 health certificate from their home county?

The Italian government has so far given no indication on how children over 12 visiting Italy can access the green pass.

Presently, for those travelling from the UK, for example, the British government advice reads, “Minors aged 12-17 (who are not fully vaccinated) will need to test every 48 hours to obtain a green pass in order to access local services and venues.”

This doesn’t fit with the upcoming super green pass requirements, however, and the UK government advice hasn’t yet been updated to reflect Italy’s new rules.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further details about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

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