Italian regions push to scrap Covid rules as official timeline delayed

A month after Italy’s prime minister said a timeline for easing Covid rules would be announced “soon”, regional governments have given up waiting and are now drawing up their own plan.

Italian regions push to scrap Covid rules as official timeline delayed
Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

With no sign of the government’s promised “roadmap” for ending coronavirus-related health measures in Italy, regional leaders are now pushing to implement changes to the rules as soon as possible, according to Italian media reports.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi initially announced that the government was working on a timeline for easing Covid rules on February 7th, without going into detail. On February 19th, he said there would be a “gradual” end to the country’s health pass requirement, and indicated that his “road map” for easing restrictions was on the way.

On February 23rd, Draghi announced that Italy’s Covid state of emergency would end on March 31st, and confirmed plans to “gradually” remove the ‘super green pass’ requirement at many venues from April.

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

But any further details of the plan are yet to materialise. And with the government now focusing its attention on the situation in Ukraine, regional authorities around Italy have begun working together to draw up their own timeline.

Heads of Italian regional governments are writing up a proposal, Italian media reports, in order to give certainty to business owners, residents and visitors, who still have little idea of what to expect in terms of Covid restrictions in Italy beyond March 31st.

Regions are reportedly pushing for the green pass requirement to end on April 1st, and for rules on wearing masks indoors to be scrapped by Easter.

The president of Italy’s regional conference, Massimiliano Fedriga, said the first thing to go should be the current strict checks on compliance with green pass rules, in order to “save what remains of the first instalment of the tourist season, the Easter holidays”, reported Repubblica.

“All [of Italy’s] competitors, from Spain to Greece, have already reopened and those who have not yet done so completely, such as Greece, have announced the date of the return to normal,” Repubblica noted.

READ ALSO: When will Italy ease its coronavirus restrictions?

However, the roadmap document now being drafted by the regions remains a proposal, and there’s no guarantee that the government will accept it.

It’s also uncertain whether regions may be able to choose to ease their local rules independently. 

At the moment, under rules implemented under the state of emergency, regional governments have the power to implement stricter measures locally than those put in place at a national level but are not allowed to ease rules without approval from the government.

With the end of the state of emergency, and with the government occupied with the fallout from Russia’s attack on Ukraine, It’s not clear whether the Italian health ministry would be likely to approve regions’ requests for changes at either a national or local level.

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said he is “in favour of reshaping the ‘super green pass’, gradually, until its abolition not from April 1st but in April,” as Draghi previously said was the plan.

“I would carefully evaluate an abolition in workplaces before elsewhere,” Sileri added. 

He said the priority should be “restoring normal capacity at the stadium or in the office” and suggested ending the requirement to wear masks indoors “by the middle of April”.

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Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italian heathcare staff suspended over their refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can now return to work, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni confirmed on Monday.

Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Italy become the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

That obligation had been set to expire in December, but was brought forward to Tuesday due to “a shortage of medical and health personnel”, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has since registered nearly 180,000 deaths.

Schillaci first announced the plan to scrap the rule on Friday in a statement saying data showed the virus’ impact on hospitals  “is now limited”.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

Meloni said the move, which has been criticised by the centre-left as a win for anti-vax campaigners, would mean some 4,000 healthcare workers can return to work.

This includes some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination, according to records at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic, when it was the main opposition party, and she promised to use her first cabinet meetings to mark a clear break in policies with her predecessor.