Italy expands Covid vaccine requirement to teachers, police and rescue workers

From Wednesday, all those working in Italy's schools, police, military, or emergency services must be vaccinated against Covid-19, with sanctions for those who refuse.

A civil protection department workers at a Covid vaccination centre.
Italy's Covid vaccination mandate will be extended to more key workers from Wednesday, December 15th.Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

The vaccination mandate for key workers first announced in November will be effective as of Wednesday December 15th.

After making vaccinations mandatory for all healthcare workers in April, the Italian government expanded the requirement to more groups in a decree signed into law on November 26th.

This includes health administrative staff, school teachers and administrative staff, military personnel, police and emergency services personnel.

READ ALSO: Italy set to extend Covid state of emergency into 2022

According to additional details published in a circular by Italy’s interior ministry on December 2nd, school staff who meet the criteria for mandatory shots include those in the national education system as well as those employed by private schools and children’s educational services. Vaccination is also a requirement for school managers.

All workers in Italy’s defence, security, emergency rescue, and juvenile and community justice sectors, as well as police, intelligence officers and prison guards, are obliged to undergo a full immunisation cycle.

Anyone in this category who refuses to get vaccinated will face sanctions, which can include suspension from work without pay.

Police officers who refuse to be vaccinated would also have to turn in their badge and any state-issued weapons and handcuffs.

Managers will have to check that staff comply with the new obligation. For those who can’t show proof of the vaccination, or a certificate to show why the injection isn’t needed or postponed, there will be “the immediate suspension of the right to carry out work, without disciplinary consequences and with the right to the preservation of the employment relationship”.

Fines of between €600 and €1,500 are imposed for those failing to follow the rules, while managers who don’t carry out checks for either public or private companies risk penalties of between €400 to €1,000, reported Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The mandatory Covid-19 vaccination covers the entire vaccination cycle, including the obligation to get a third dose or booster shot, according to the November 26th decree.

The booster is available five months after the last dose, and must be given “within the validity period of the Covid-19 green certificates”, which means within nine months of the last shot.

Also from Wednesday, health and social care personnel who are already vaccinated will be required to get the booster dose.

The booster shot has been available to everyone in Italy aged 18 and over from December 1st.

Almost 86 percent of the eligible population over 12 years old has now completed the vaccination cycle in Italy, while some 12.7 million booster shots have been administered so far according to the latest official figures.

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Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Masks will no longer be required in the workplace but Italian companies will have the right to impose restrictions for employees deemed "at risk".

Italy lifts mask mandate for private sector workers

Representatives from the Italian Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Health and all major national unions collectively signed off on Thursday a new “shared protocol” (protocollo condiviso) for the implementation of anti-Covid measures in private workplaces. 

Although the full text of the bill will only be made available to the public sometime next week, portions of the document have already been released to the media, thus disclosing the government’s next steps in the fight against the virus.

The most relevant update concerns face masks, which will no longer be mandatory in private workplaces. 

However, the text specifies, FFP2 face masks remain “an important protective item aimed at safeguarding workers’ health”. As such, employers will have the right to autonomously impose the use of face coverings on categories of workers considered “at risk”.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Notably, face coverings may remain mandatory for those working in “indoor settings shared by multiple employees” or even in “outdoor settings where social distancing may not be practicable”. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (soggetti fragili) may also be subject to such rules, which, it is worth reminding, are left to the employer’s discretion. 

Alongside mask-related restrictions, employers will also have the right to have their staff undergo temperature checks prior to entering the workplace. In such cases, anyone with a body temperature higher than 37.5C will be denied access to the workplace and will be asked to temporarily self-isolate pending further indications from their own doctor.

In line with previous measures, companies will be required to continue supplying sanitising products free of charge and regulate access to common areas (canteens, smoking areas, etc.) so as to avoid gatherings.

Additionally, employers will be advised to keep incentivising smart working (lavoro agile), as it has proved to be “a valuable tool to curb infection, especially for at-risk individuals”.

Provided that the country’s infection curve registers no significant changes, the updated protocol will remain in place until October 31st, when it will yet again be reviewed by the relevant governmental and social parties. 

With the latest round of measures, Italy has now scrapped all Covid-related health measures, except the requirement to wear face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings, and self-isolation provisions for those testing positive. 

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Italy’s infection curve has been rising significantly since the beginning of June. From June 1st to June 14th, Covid’s R (spreading rate) rate rose back over 1 for the first time since April 8th. Also, from June 17th to June 23rd, the virus’s incidence rate was 504 cases every 100,000 residents, up by 62 per cent on the previous week.

According to Claudio Mastroianni, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sapienza University of Rome, “with 25 per cent of daily Covid swabs coming back positive and a R rate over 1, the infection curve will likely rise at least until mid-July”.

However, albeit acknowledging the rising number of positive cases, Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa has so far categorically excluded the possibility of re-introducing lapsed Covid measures, saying that it’ll be a “restriction-free summer”.