Covid super green pass rules mean ‘forced exile’, say Italy’s islanders

Unvaccinated residents on Italy's small islands risk being cast into "forced exile" by new coronavirus rules, a representative of local authorities warned Wednesday, calling for rules changes to help them.

People sit on a beach in Lampedusa, Italy.
New Covid rules threaten daily life for Italy's islanders, say local authorities. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Measures requiring proof of recent vaccination or recovery to use public transport come into effect on Monday as Italy battles rising Covid-19 infections.

But in a letter to the government, Francesco Del Deo, head of the National Association of Municipalities of Small Islands (ANCIM), pointed out that boats and planes are the only means of getting off and on the islands.

The new rules risk “condemning to forced exile residents who for different reasons are not vaccinated”, he warned.

ANCIM represents 35 municipalities covering 87 small islands with a combined population of around 240,000, Capri and Ischia among them.

It wants an exception to the new rules to allow unvaccinated residents to show a negative Covid test to take public transport if they have to travel for reasons of health, education or work.

The health issue is particularly important as medical facilities are often rudimentary or non-existent, with some islands served only by a doctor who visits for a few hours once or twice a week.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Del Deo, mayor of a municipality on Ischia, off the coast of Naples, told AFP.

While he backed vaccination, “in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected”.

One solution could be the creation of special areas in ferries for the unvaccinated who could show a negative test, to avoid potential complaints from other passengers, he suggested.

Italy was the European country first hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and still has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 138,000.

More than 86 percent of people over 12 are fully vaccinated, and Del Deo said rates on the little islands were comparable.

Despite the campaign, infection rates are rising sharply – as elsewhere in Europe, a trend fuelled by the new Omicron strain.

From Monday, the ‘super green pass’ requiring proof of recent vaccination or recovery from coronavirus will be required for most indoor public venues and on public transport.


The ‘reinforced’ health certificate is available only to those who are vaccinated against or have recovered from the virus – as opposed to the basic green pass, attainable by testing negative for Covid every two to three days (depending on whether the test taken is molecular or rapid antigen).

Previously, such venues and services were accessible with the basic green pass.

The extended super green pass has already been made compulsory for access to almost all leisure, social or sporting activities in Italy and will be a requirement at even more places from January 10th, including all restaurants and bars and public transport.

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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.”