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Reader question: How can visitors use a Covid-19 recovery certificate in Italy?

Italy recognises some Covid-19 recovery certificates as valid for accessing venues and services that would otherwise require a vaccine pass. But where are they accepted, and what details should they contain? Here's what you need to know.

A woman enters an pharmacy in Italy.
A woman reads a sign advising clients in various languages, including Chinese, that respiratory masks are sold out on January 29, 2020 at a pharmacy in downtown Rome, in the wake of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus, a virus similar to the SARS pathogen, spreading around the world since emerging in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. - The Italian government said on January 29, 2020 it was sending a plane to evacuate citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly SARS-like virus, as WHO chief called new emergency talks on the virus situation. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Question: I recently recovered from Covid-19 and I have read that I’ll need to show proof of this when travelling to Italy. What kind of proof do I need and where is this needed?

Since January 10th, Italy has required proof of vaccination to access most venues and services in the country, including all public transport, hotels and restaurants.

Under certain conditions, a Covid-19 recovery certificate can be used in place of a vaccination certificate – but its uses are strictly prescribed.

If you are a resident in Italy and have recovered from Covid-19, your healthcare provider in Italy will log your recovery information with the health ministry and this will be used to automatically generate a green pass which can be downloaded and scanned, according to the health ministry’s green pass website.

If you are visiting or returning to Italy and you have recovered from Covid-19 in another country, things are less straightforward but you may also able to use your recovery certificate in Italy.

Here are the circumstances under which visitors can use a Covid-19 recovery certificate in Italy, and the information the document should contain:

What can I use a Covid-19 recovery certificate for in Italy?

For entry to Italy: Under the current rules for international arrivals, visitors arriving in Italy from anywhere within the EU or Schengen or area, as well as the US, Canada or Japan, can use a valid Covid-19 recovery certificate in lieu of a vaccination certificate to enter the country. 

Travellers coming from the US, Canada or Japan must additionally provide a negative result from a recent rapid antigen or PRC test to avoid a five-day quarantine on entering Italy.

READ ALSO: What are the latest rules for travel to Italy from the US and Canada?

Within Italy: All foreign visitors can use their valid recovery certificate to access venues and services which currently require a vaccine pass, such as hotels, restaurants, public transport, ski facilities, museums and cultural sites, provided it meets the government’s criteria.

A valid recovery certificate may also be used to access spaces in Italy that now require either proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative Covid test: this includes most non-essential shops, post offices and banks.

A Covid-19 recovery certificate is considered valid in Italy for 180 days (six months) from the date on which your Covid infection was first officially recorded.

What information should my recovery certificate contain?

The Italian health ministry stated on July 30th, 2021, that a recovery certificate should contain the following:

  • The holder’s name, surname, and date of birth.
  • “information about the holder’s past SARS-CoV-2 infection, following a positive test” (exactly what information isn’t specified, but as the certificate must be issued by a health authority, one or two lines from the authority summarising the nature of the holder’s past infection is likely to be what’s required).
  • The date of the holder’s first positive Covid test (the certificate is valid for 180 days from this date).
  • The name of the State and the health authority that has issued the certificate.

The ministry states that all recovery certificates issued in a foreign language should be accompanied by a sworn translation (presumably to Italian).

READ ALSO: How Italy’s international travel rules change in February

To be considered valid, your Covid-19 recovery certificate must have been issued by an official healthcare provider.

If you believe you had Covid-19 but never confirmed it, or confirmed it only with a home test, you will not be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Italian authorities that you have recovered from Covid.

A bar owner uses the Verifica C-19 mobile app to check a customer's vaccination or recovery status in central Rome.
A bar owner uses the Verifica C-19 mobile app to check a customer’s vaccination or recovery status in central Rome. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Is an expired recovery certificate useless then?

Far from it. Following a new decree that came into force in Italy on February 5th, an expired recovery certificate can still be used to access all venues and services that require a valid recovery or vaccination certificate, if used in combination with an additional time-limited certificate that can be obtained via a negative Covid test.

The test must be administered by a certified provider in Italy (e.g., a pharmacy), to whom you will need to provide your full name and proof of ID. Once you receive your negative test result, you will be issued with a certificate that takes the form of a QR code that can be easily scanned by public sector and service industry workers.

READ ALSO: How Italy has updated its Covid health pass rules for visitors

This short-term certificate obtained through a negative test result is known as a ‘basic green pass’ (green pass base, pronounced ‘green pass BAH-zay’, in Italian). The basic green pass will expire 48 hours after receiving a negative rapid test result, or 72 hours after a negative PCR test.

You will need to show both your basic green pass QR code and your expired recovery certificate in order to enter spaces that otherwise require a valid recovery or vaccine certificate.

It’s possible you may experience pushback from venue managers responsible for enforcing the restrictions who sometimes struggle to keep up to speed with Italy’s rapid rule changes. If this happens, try showing them this government press release which summarises the new rules.

Does Italy accept antibody tests as proof of recovery? 

The Italian government has not indicated it will accept antibody tests, which involve analysing your blood for antibodies to Covid-19 that indicate you have had an immune response to the disease, as proof you have recovered.

We don’t yet know for sure how long antibodies can remain in the body or how reliably they indicate immunity.

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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”.