Italy likely to toughen Covid rules with curbs on unvaccinated people
The Italian government is expected to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people as it scrambles to stem a resurgence in Covid-19 infections.
In a similar move to that seen in France, those not fully vaccinated could be barred from being served indoors at restaurants and bars and from entering stadiums, museums, theatres, cinemas, swimming pools and gyms.
The government hopes the obligation to also present a “green pass” when travelling within the country by train or plane will incentivise more people to get vaccinated.
The decree is expected to be approved this week and could take effect from 26 July.
Covid-related deaths and hospitalisations have fallen significantly since Italy accelerated its vaccination programme. But infections, mostly driven by the Delta variant, have jumped over the past week, with 3,127 new cases reported on Sunday. Three Covid deaths were recorded on Sunday, bringing the total to 127,867 – the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK. There are 156 coronavirus patients in intensive care across Italy.
As of Monday, 50% of people over the age of 12 had been fully vaccinated. However, there has been a slowdown in bookings in recent weeks as young people delay receiving the first dose in order not to disrupt their summer holidays.
Opposition to the green pass scheme from far-right parties is also emboldening Italy’s small but virulent anti-vaccine movement as well as dissuading people who are undecided about the vaccine.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, a key partner in prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government, backed introducing a green pass to enter stadiums “but not if you go for a pizza”.
During a dinner at the home of the Algerian ambassador in Rome last week, Salvini said he had missed his first dose in June because he was “on trial” but would have it in August. However, he said he would not force his 18-year-old son to have one.
In an interview with La Repubblica on Sunday, Salvini said: “I refuse to see someone chasing him with a swab test or syringe. We have to make sure parents and grandparents are safe without punishing our children and grandchildren.”
Giorgia Meloni, who leads the far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy, said the green pass would be a further blow to the economy. Francesco Lollobrigida, a Brothers of Italy deputy, urged the under-40s to refrain from taking the vaccine and described the green pass as “blackmail from the government and a violation of liberty”.
While the move by the French government to ban unvaccinated people from accessing public venues, including bars and restaurants, led to record vaccination bookings, thousands protested against the measure on Sunday.
Together, the League and Brothers of Italy have more than 40% support in opinion polls.
“Their views on the vaccine have a big influence on people,” said Sara, whose mother, in her 60s and living in Sicily, is refusing to have the vaccine. “I never expected this as my mum has always been someone who worried about health. She often sends me misinformation found on social media. It’s a battle to encourage her to have the vaccine but there’s a lot of support for Salvini where she lives – I’m sure if he changed his stance there’d be a surge in vaccine bookings.”