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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy urges people to book boosters ahead of Covid pass validity cut

The Italian health ministry is sending out reminders to those yet to have their Covid booster shot, as it plans to slash the validity of vaccine passes to six months from Tuesday.

Green passes are checked as employees enter a workplace in Liguria.
Green passes are checked as employees enter a workplace in Liguria. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

From February 1st, the validity period of Italy’s so-called ‘super’ or ‘reinforced’ green pass will decrease from nine to six months from the date of the last vaccination.

This means that, on that date, anyone with a green pass which was issued following vaccination against Covid-19 in August 2021 or earlier (and who has not yet had a booster shot) will see it expire.

A large proportion of people in Italy completed the initial vaccination cycle in summer 2021, and those who have not had a booster jab now face being barred from many venues and services in the country in the coming days and weeks as passes expire earlier than expected.

READ ALSO: How does Italy’s Covid ‘super green pass’ work?

A valid ‘super’ green pass or vaccine pass is now a necessity for many aspects of everyday life in Italy, as it has been made a requirement for access to everything from public transport to restaurants and hotels. Over-50s and some groups of workers are also subject to a vaccine mandate.

The health ministry has over the past week been sending out email reminders to those with imminently expiring passes (based on their vaccination records and contact information given upon vaccination), advising them to book a third dose immediately in order to extend the validity by another six months.

“From February 1, the Covid-19 green certification will no longer be valid in Italy, following the change from 9 to 6 months of the validity period of certification of vaccination or recovery,” reads the email sent out by the health ministry, in both Italian and English.

Those who get a booster dose can “obtain a new certification which will have a duration of six months from the date of administration of the vaccine”, it continues.

Anyone with questions about getting vaccinated or obtaining the green pass is advised to consult the health ministry’s green pass website here (available only in Italian) or to call the freephone information hotline on 1500, which is open 24/7 and advertised as also being available in English.

READ ALSO: Can foreigners in Italy use the national Covid vaccine booking website?

The health ministry notes that anyone who has already booked their booster shot or has recovered from Covid-19 since their last dose should disregard the email reminder.

Will validity be extended for passes issued after booster shots?

Another problem concerns some of those who have already had a third or booster dose: the six-month validity is set to apply to all certificates of vaccination with either a second or third dose, meaning anyone who had their booster early could see their pass expire in the coming days or weeks

According to estimates published in Italian media this week, some 100,000 people in Italy would be likely to face this problem in March – mainly healthcare workers who were among the first to be vaccinated with a third dose from September.

There is also widespread concern that the rule change will prove problematic for foreign tourists from countries which began administering booster shots earlier than Italy, such as the US.

WIth no fourth dose available, the Italian government is now reconsidering the cut to validity according to Italian media reports.

It looks likely that ministers will decide to either keep the validity period at nine months, or even to extend it indefinitely for those who have had a booster. The six-month deadline is therefore expected only to apply to those who have had two shots.

However, no changes have been officially announced and the Italian government is yet to finalise plans on Monday.

READ ALSO: How do Italy’s Covid-19 rules change from February 1st?

A bar owner uses the Verifica C19 mobile app to scan a green pass in central Rome. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Before a decision can be made, the government needs the green light from its panel of scientific experts, the comitato tecnico scientifico (CTS)

Following consultation with the CTS, a cabinet meeting is scheduled to begin at 3pm local time on Monday, January 31st, at which changes will be discussed.

This means any changes to the new rules are likely to be confirmed just hours before they come into force on Tuesday, February 1st.

The planned cut to the validity of the green pass from nine to six months was first announced on December 24th, and comes after the period was decreased to nine months from 12 on December 15th.

The government is also expected on Monday to review a number of other Covid-19 health measures, including the closure order applying to discos and dance venues set to expire on January 31st.

With Italy’s latest international travel rules due to expire on January 31st, Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed an ordinance on January 27th extending most current measures, with some changes for arrivals from within the EU.

How to book your booster jab in Italy:

Boosters are available to everyone in Italy aged over 18 from four months after completion of the initial vaccination cycle.

However, as with the first dose, the process of actually booking your shot varies from region to region in Italy due to the highly decentralised healthcare system – and there are still bureaucratic obstacles for foreign residents who are not signed up to the country’s national health service.

You may be able to book online using Italy’s vaccination appointment booking portal – though this service is currently only available in certain regions including Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Marche, Sardinia, Sicily and Valle d’Aosta.

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

Each regional health authority also has its own booking system. Some regions, such as Puglia and Lombardy, have their own online booking portal. Find further links and contact details for every regional service here.

You may also want to check your regional authority’s website for details of vaccination open days being held in the near future. 

In Sardinia, for example, the regional health councillor mandated last week that all vaccination hubs must hold open days and accept walk-ins without booking for booster jabs.

If you have already had your booster shot, find out how to download your updated green pass here.

Find more information about Covid-19 vaccinations in Italy and the green pass system on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English) and the official green pass website.

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COVID-19 RULES

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

After Italy recently removed most Covid-related restrictions, readers have been asking us what exactly to expect on upcoming visits. Here are your questions answered.

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

Rules around travel to Italy and within the country have changed multiple times over the past two years. Unsurprisingly, they changed again just over a week ago.

On May 1st, Italy removed nearly all of its Covid-related social restrictions, including the so-called ‘green pass’ (or certificato verde), which was previously required to enter most venues across the country.

READ ALSO: Dining outdoors and hiking: How visitors plan to holiday in Italy this summer 

As the bel paese moves past its former state of emergency and opens up again to international tourism, we asked readers whether they’ll be travelling to Italy this summer. Most said yes, although some of you had doubts and reservations about the Covid restrictions currently in place.

And you had some questions for us, too – mainly about what to expect once you arrive in the country.

Below are our answers, based on the Italian government’s latest decree and the current advice from the health ministry.

If you’re looking for a detailed look at the entry rules when travelling to Italy this summer, please find more information here.

Q: Does Italy still have vaccine requirements in place?

A: A valid Covid vaccination or recovery certificate will be required to enter Italy until at least May 31st, when the current travel rules expire. 

As for travelling within Italy, as of May 1st, a valid health certificate is no longer required to access indoor venues and transport services. All visitors are free to travel across the country and enter restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and other indoor locations without having to provide a valid health pass.

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

The only exception is for hospitals and care homes, which will continue to require a ‘green pass’ or its equivalent in the form of a foreign-issued vaccine or recovery certificate until December 2022.

Q: What kind of masks do you have to wear when travelling by train?

A: The use of FFP2 face masks is mandatory on all means of public transport, so not just trains but also buses, ferries and so on. Those equipped with a different type of face covering will be prevented from using the service.

The obligation to wear face masks on public transport will remain in place until at least June 15th.

Please note that FFP2 face masks are also required to enter the following indoor venues: cinemas, theatres, entertainment and sport venues (but not museums or galleries).

READ ALSO: Where do you still need to wear a mask in Italy from May 1st?

Q: Will more restaurants and shops be closed than normal?  

A: No, quite the contrary. After a couple of rather grim years, things are apparently once again looking up for Italian tourism. 

According to a survey from market research institute Demoskopika, the number of domestic and international tourists in Italy is set to rise by 43 percent compared to 2021. The first signs of such expected recovery manifested themselves over the Easter holidays, when some of the most popular Italian tourist destinations recorded ‘pre-pandemic’ numbers of visitors. 

So, to answer the question, most local businesses will look to capitalise on the renewed inflow of both international and national tourists and will therefore keep their doors (and hearts, hopefully) open.

View of the bars in the Navigli area, Milan

After a couple of rather bleak years, bars and restaurants are ready to welcome back international visitors. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Q: I’m vaccinated but not ‘boosted’ and want to know if this is acceptable.

A: It is indeed. 

For the sake of clarity, here are the current rules on the topic.

Until at least May 31st when the rules expire (they may either be scrapped or extended after this point; The Local will provide updates when the deadline approaches), travellers may enter the country if they are asymptomatic and can present one of the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate recognised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Presently, EMA recognises the following vaccines: Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, Vaxzevria Johnson and Johnson, Astrazeneca and Novavax. Please keep in mind that the minimum requirement is that you have fully completed the primary vaccination cycle (in this case, your pass will be valid for 9 months). For those who have already received a booster shot, the certificate is valid indefinitely.
  • A valid medical certificate confirming recovery from Covid (this is valid for 6 months from the positive swab test)
  • A negative molecular (PCR) test carried out within 72 hours of arrival in Italy or a rapid antigen test carried out within 48 hours of arrival

As previously mentioned, you won’t need a health pass (nor negative test result) to travel across the country.

Q: What type of health pass is needed for indoor dining from May?

A: None. No vaccination or recovery certificate is required to access bars and restaurants. Face masks are also no longer mandatory. 

Having said that, the use of face coverings in all indoor settings is still “strongly recommended” by the government. Furthermore, some local businesses have chosen to independently enforce stricter rules and only allow people equipped with a face mask to enter their premises.

Q: What are the current restrictions for hotels, restaurants and museums? 

A: There are no Covid-related restrictions (that is, not even face masks) for hotels, restaurants and museums.

However, as mentioned above, some businesses may choose to enforce their own rules and ask customers to wear a face covering. So, keep this in mind before you waltz into your local grocery store without a mask.

Musei Capitolini in Rome

Health certificates are no longer required to enter indoor venues, including museums and galleries. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Q: What are the isolation rules if you test positive while visiting Italy?

A: If you test positive for Covid during your trip, you will have to self-isolate at your existing accommodation and notify the relevant local authorities (Aziende Sanitarie Locali, ASL) as soon as possible.

The Italian quarantine instructions are a bit of a head-scratcher, therefore we’ll try to summarise them as follows:

  • Those who have received a ‘booster shot’, have completed the first vaccination cycle no more than 120 days prior to testing positive or have recovered from Covid no more than 120 days prior to testing positive will be required to self-isolate for at least seven days. 
  • All others will be required to self-isolate for at least 10 days, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

You’ll be able to exit your quarantine period by taking a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test.

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

However, note that you will only be allowed to take such tests if you’ve shown no symptoms in the three days prior to the supposed date of the test. If you have, your self-isolation period will be extended. 

For instance, if you’re supposed to get tested on the tenth day of your quarantine but show symptoms on the ninth, you’ll only be able to get tested on the twelfth.

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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