Italy has adopted a new decree making it obligatory for all workers to display a COVID-19 health pass from October 15.
Thursday’s move by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition administration is aimed at persuading people to get inoculated and blunting infection rates in one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.
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Employees in public and private sectors will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination, a recent negative COVID-19 test or recovery from the virus in the previous six months to access workplaces.
“The Green Pass is an instrument of freedom, that will help us make workplaces safer,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told a news conference.
“The second reason is to reinforce our vaccine campaign.”
The Green Pass requirement covers 14.7 million private sector workers and 3.2 million in state-supported jobs.
Until now, medical personnel were obliged to be vaccinated, while the Green Pass rule had been in place only for school employees.
Green Passes are also necessary for indoor leisure activities, such as dining, visiting the theatre or museum, and for long-distance domestic travel.
Penalties for non-compliance
Workers who fail to present valid health certificates will be suspended on no pay, but cannot be sacked, ministers told reporters after Draghi’s cabinet approved the measures.
People who ignore the decree and go to work regardless will face a fine of 600 to 1,500 euros ($705-$1,765). The sanction for employers will be 400-1,000 euros ($470-$1,175).
The measures are the first of their kind adopted by a major European economy for all categories of workers, making Italy a test case for the continent.
They will remain in effect as long as Italy is in a state of emergency. The state of emergency is currently set to run until December 31.
“Nothing like this has been done in Europe … we are putting ourselves in the forefront internationally,” said Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta.
Brunetta added that the government expected an “enormous” acceleration of jabs simply by the announcement of the decree, so that much of its desired effect could be achieved before it actually comes into effect.
Italy has recorded the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe after the United Kingdom, with a nationwide death toll of more than 130,000.
About 74 percent of its 60 million-strong population have had at least one COVID-19 shot and 68 percent are fully vaccinated, figures broadly in line with most other European Union countries.