Is Italy about to make Covid vaccine passes mandatory for all employees?

Italy has been discussing a vaccine mandate since late summer, and the measure is now expected to be approved this week. But how certain is this to happen, and who would it apply to?

Workers in Italy show a green pass at the gate.
All workers in Italy must currently show a health pass - but a vaccine pass may soon be required under an upcoming rule change.  Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The Italian government is to meet on Wednesday to discuss yet more changes to the nationwide Covid-19 health measures, after already bringing in two new decrees in as many weeks.

One of the measures expected to be included this time is a long-discussed vaccine mandate for all employees in Italy.

But rather than expanding the vaccine obligation which currently applies to healthcare staff, police, teachers and emergency services workers, the government reportedly plans instead to make its vaccine pass a requirement for entry to all workplaces

The ‘super’ or ‘reinforced’ green pass health certificate, which proves vaccination or recovery, has already been made mandatory for access to almost all leisure, social or sporting activities in the country, but workplaces so far are not subject to the rule.

Calendar: When do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change?

At the moment, only the basic form of the health passport is needed at workplaces (unless you’re in one of the categories subject to the vaccine mandate).

The basic green pass can be obtained via a negative test result – though these passes are only valid for a couple of days, meaning people who refuse vaccination must get tested several times a week in order to go to work.

Ministers have been talking about bringing in a general vaccination mandate of some description since September. Instead, so far, the government has brought in a mandate for some key workers while gradually tightening restrictions on those who are not vaccinated.

The vaccination requirement for all employees was debated at meetings about the previous two decrees issued in late December, though the measure didn’t pass.

But one senior health ministry figure said on Monday that, this time, the cabinet is likely to approve a vaccination obligation for all workers, effectively meaning those who haven’t had the jab will be barred from their place of work.

“There is an ongoing debate within the ruling majority, but I am confident that the premier will once again achieve consensus and the super green pass will be extended,” said Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa on Monday, reports news agency Ansa.

The measure would “help convince” Italy’s five million unvaccinated adults to get immunised, he said, adding that the rule change was also “needed to resolve a series of contradictions, such as the one that makes it necessary for a customer having a coffee to have the super green pass, but not the people working in the cafe”.

A docker wears a "No Green Pass" pin as workers block port operations in the port of Genoa, Liguria, on October 15, 2021 as new coronavirus restrictions for workers come into effect.

A dock worker wearing a “No Green Pass” pin at a protest against the introduction of the rules on October 15th, 2021. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Technically, this would not be a ‘vaccine pass’, but a vaccination and recovery pass – as the document can also be issued to those who are certified as having recovered from Covid-19. However, the move is clearly aimed at increasing vaccination coverage further, and only a tiny fraction of Italy’s green passes are issued based on recovery certificates, health ministry data shows.

Either way, it does look certain now that the government will soon approve an extension of the green pass rules which would effectively amount to a vaccine mandate

The question remaining is: when will it come in, and who exactly will it apply to?

Some of Italy’s most powerful unions, as well as major parties within the coalition government, are pushing for the obligation to apply to all over-18s, rather than all employees.

Nothing has yet been confirmed. But working age adults, at least, can probably expect to need the ‘super green pass’ to enter workplaces soon – in addition to the long list of other venues and services already set to be subject to the requirement.

At the moment, places which will require the green pass from January 10th include:

  • All restaurants and bars
  • All public transport, including local buses
  • Hotels
  • Ski lifts
  • Indoor swimming pools, wellness centres, gyms and team sports facilities;
  • Spas except for “essential rehabilitation or therapeutic treatments”;
  • museums and exhibitions;
  • theme parks;
  • indoor cultural, social and recreational centres (excluding educational centres for children);
  • games rooms, betting rooms, bingo halls and casinos.

These requirements may also change as the government plans another update to the health restrictions.

The government is expected to make an announcement about any changes to the restrictions by Thursday.

How do you get a ‘super green pass’?

If you’ve been vaccinated in Italy, including before the ‘super’ green pass rule came in, the pass generated at the time will be valid for these purposes. You don’t need to do anything else.

However, be aware that from February 1st green passes based on vaccination will expire after six months. If you get a third or booster dose, your pass will then be renewed for another six months.

Proof of vaccination or recovery issued in all EU and some non-EU countries should also be accepted as equivalent to a ‘super’ green pass in Italy, but if you’re worried about a foreign vaccination certificate not being recognised, remember you can use it to apply for an Italian green pass once you’re in the country. Find out more here.

See complete details of Italy’s green pass system and requirements on the health ministry’s DGC portal here.

For further information about Italy’s current Covid-19 health measures, please see the Italian Health Ministry’s website (available in English).

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Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

The health ministry is reviewing its quarantine requirements as the country's Covid-19 health situation improved again this week, according to Italian media reports.

Will Italy drop its Covid isolation rule as the infection rate falls?

Italy has taken a more cautious approach to Covid in recent months than many of its European neighbours, keeping strict isolation rules in place for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

But this could be set to change in the coming days, according to media reports, as one of Italy’s deputy health ministers said the government is about to cut the isolation period for asymptomatic cases.

“Certainly in the next few days there will be a reduction in isolation for those who are positive but have no symptoms,” Deputy Health Minister Andrea Costa said in a TV interview on the political talk show Agorà on Tuesday.

“We have to manage to live with the virus,” he said.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that the compulsory isolation period could be reduced to 48 hours for those who test positive but remain asymptomatic – provided they subsequently test negative after the day two mark.

Under Italy’s current rules, vaccinated people who test positive must stay in isolation for at least seven days, and unvaccinated people for ten days – regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.

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

At the end of the isolation period, the patient has to take another test to exit quarantine. Those who test negative are free to leave; those who remain positive must stay in isolation until they get a negative test result, up to a maximum of 21 days in total (at which point it doesn’t matter what the test result says).

Health ministry sources indicated the new rules would cut the maximum quarantine period to 15 or even 10 days for people who continue to test positive after the initial isolation period is up, La Stampa said.

The government is believed to be reviewing the rules as the latest official data showed Covid infection and hospitalisation rates were slowing again this week, as the current wave of contagions appeared to have peaked in mid-July.

However, the national Rt number (which shows the rate of transmission) remained above the epidemic threshold, and the number of fatalities continued to rise.

The proposed changes still aren’t lenient enough for some parties. Regional authorities have been pushing for an end to quarantine altogether, even for people who are actively positive – an idea Costa appears sympathetic to.

“The next step I think is to consider the idea of even eliminating the quarantine, perhaps by wearing a mask and therefore being able to go to work,” he told reporters.

“We must review the criteria for isolation, to avoid blocking the country again”.

At least one health expert, however, was unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Dr Nino Cartabellotta, head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine group Gimbe, tweeted on Tuesday: “There are currently no epidemiological or public health reasons to abolish the isolation of Covid-19 positives”

Massimo Andreoni, professor of Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Tor Vergata University of Rome, was more ambivalent about the prospect.

The isolation requirement for asymptomatic cases should be “revised somewhat in the light of the epidemiological data”, he told reporters, but urged “a minimum of precaution, because the less the virus circulates and the fewer severe cases there are, the fewer new variants arise”.

When the question was last raised at the end of June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was firmly against the idea of lifting quarantine requirements for people who were Covid positive.

“At the moment such a thing is not in question,” he told newspaper La Repubblica at the time. “Anyone who is infected must stay at home.”