Italy to end Covid state of emergency and cut ‘super green pass’, PM confirms

The Italian government will not extend the Covid-19 state of emergency beyond its current deadline of March 31st, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday.

Italy to end Covid state of emergency and cut ‘super green pass’, PM confirms
Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 “The goal is to open everything back up as soon as possible,” Draghi told a business conference in Florence, according to Italian media reports.

Though ministers have repeatedly indicated that the state of emergency would likely come to an end on that date, the move had not yet been confirmed.

The state of emergency is the condition which has allowed the Italian government to bring in emergency measures by decree over the past two years.

TIMELINE: When will Italy ease its coronavirus restrictions?

While the end of the state of emergency does not necessarily mean the end of all pandemic-related restrictions, the prime minister said the use of the ‘green pass’ health certificate scheme would also be scaled back.

The government will gradually remove the obligation to show proof of vaccination or recovery at many venues under the system, Draghi said, without giving any dates.

Italy currently operates a two-tiered green pass health certificate system, meaning proof of vaccination or recovery is currently needed for access to everything from hotels and restaurants to  public transport and many workplaces in Italy. 

READ ALSO: Where you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy

“We will gradually put an end to the enhanced green certificate obligation, starting with outdoor activities including fairs, sports, parties and shows,” he said. 

“We will continue to monitor the pandemic situation closely, ready to intervene in case of resurgence.”

Rules on quarantine and the use of higher-grade FFP2 masks in schools are also to be eased in April, he said.

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‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.