Italy tightens screws on unvaccinated people as Covid-19 cases rise

People demonstrate against the Green Pass, in Turin, Italy, on Aug 5, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MILAN (BLOOMBERG) - Italy is doubling down on vaccine passports.

Following a decision to limit access to activities such as indoor dining to holders of a "green pass" beginning Friday, the Rome-based government has approved new restrictions on travel and schools, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a press conference on Thursday evening (Aug 5) in Rome.

The administration led by Mario Draghi will introduce the compulsory use of the pass - which demonstrates Covid-19 immunity or a recent negative test - for long-haul air, rail, bus, and ferry travel starting in September, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini said during the press conference.

Italy has fully vaccinated more than 60 per cent of its eligible population, but like many European nations, it is facing a steady rise in cases and hospital admissions driven by the Delta variant.

Countries including France and Germany have already imposed restrictions on unvaccinated people.

"The government's decision is to invest in the pass to avoid closures and to protect freedom," the health minister said.

School plan

While Italy's measures covering schools - where teachers will need to have the pass - and travel won't go into effect until next month, starting on Friday anyone over the age of 12 will need a certificate to dine indoors at restaurants, enter theatres, stadiums, cinemas and museums, or go to a gym.

Salaries will be suspended for teachers who neglect to get vaccinated within five days, Public Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi said at the press conference.

Italy's new cases rose to 6,596 on Wednesday, a 15 per cent increase from the previous week. Popular summer destinations are bearing the brunt of the spike in infections, with the islands of Sardinia and Sicily seeing the biggest surge.

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The green pass will be available only to people who have received at least one vaccine shot, can demonstrate they have recovered from Covid, or are able to show a negative test result no older than 48 hours.

The newly approved decree also lowers the cost of tests for children to €8 (S$12), and to €15 for adults, based on an agreement between the government and pharmacies.

Draghi's campaign to tighten restrictions and encourage Italians to get vaccinated has met strong resistance from conservative political forces, with Matteo Salvini's League party leading the pushback against the new rules.

The League, which backs Draghi's government, has been losing ground to rightist opposition party Brothers of Italy.

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