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Coming into force of the compulsory Covid health pass in Italy: live updates

Credit…Guglielmo Mangiapane / Reuters

Italy set a new bar on Friday for major Western democracies seeking to get past the pandemic by putting in place sweeping law that requires all of the country’s workforce – public and private – to have laissez-faire -pass health issued by the government.

The measure requires workers to present proof of vaccination, a negative rapid swab test or recent recovery from Covid-19 before returning to offices, schools, hospitals or other workplaces.

Under the new rules, those who do not have a green pass, as the Italian health pass is called, must take unpaid leave. Employers will be responsible for verifying certificates, most of them a cell phone app. Workers face fines of up to 1,500 euros ($ 1,760) if they do not comply.

The law goes further than those of other European countries or the United States in pushing vaccination mandates, which have become central – and hotly contested – elements of government strategies to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With this milestone, Italy – the first democracy to have quarantined cities and enforced national lockdowns – is once again the first to cross a new threshold, making it clear that it is ready to use the enormous leverage of l ‘State to try to go beyond the pandemic.

President Biden called on private companies to demand coronavirus vaccinations for employees, asking them to take the initiative because an effort he announced in September to require 80 million American workers to be vaccinated is subject to a long rule making process.

China, where more than a billion people are now fully vaccinated, is not shy about taking a more aggressive stance on vaccines. In August, authorities in at least 12 Chinese cities warned residents that unvaccinated people could be punished if found responsible for the spread of epidemics.

In Italy, where more than 80% of people over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated against Covid, the broad national mandate has sparked protests among staunch defenders, and some workers across the country threatened to strike on Friday.

But the measure has not been the subject of any serious legal challenge, and Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his government say they are confident the courts will not delay or overturn the law.

Italy has now taken the most daring position in Europe. In France, President Emmanuel Macron has tried to make life uncomfortable for unvaccinated people, requiring a health pass to enter restaurants and for long-distance train travel, for example, but only imposed vaccines for some essential workers.

Italy previously put in place strict requirements for health workers and teachers, dramatically increasing vaccination rates in these categories. But to reach the most reluctant unvaccinated workers – around 3.5 million people – the government has now taken one of the toughest lines in the Western world.

Government officials say the measure is already working and more than 500,000 previously reluctant people – many more than expected – have been vaccinated since the government announced its plan last month.

Italians have widely adopted the Green Pass, as they have rules about wearing masks in public transport and other closed public spaces, as a small sacrifice for a return to normalcy. But a small population of eligible people remain unvaccinated – a mix of vaccine skeptics, conspiracy theorists and other anti-establishment types.

“There are still 50 deaths a day,” said Colonel Mario Renna, spokesman for the Italian army general in charge of Italy’s vaccination effort. “We want to get to zero.

Credit…Tiziana Fabi / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

The new requirement for Italian workers to present a health pass to earn a salary threatened to spark protests across the country on Friday.

Last weekend, a demonstration of 10,000 opponents of the so-called Green Pass was hijacked by right-wing extremists and turned violent, prompting questions about police laxity and, more broadly, forcing Italy to rethink its fascist heritage.

The violent post-fascist group Forza Nuova, in part inspired by the January assault on the US Capitol, sought to hijack the march to attack the headquarters of the country’s largest workers’ union, which was sacked.

Protesters clashed with police under clouds of tear gas and squirting water cannons. Nearly 40 police officers were injured and a dozen extremists were arrested.

One of the rampages took off his shirt and displayed an eagle tattoo associated with fascist movements on his back. Others broke into an emergency room and assaulted a nurse. The protests became disturbing enough to prompt the evacuation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was in Rome to meet Pope Francis, from a mass at a nearby church.

A judge who signed arrest warrants against members of Forza Nuova said “they wanted to reach the institutions”. Roberto Fiore, one of the group’s founders, called Ashli ​​Babbitt, the woman killed in the assault on the US Capitol, “the first heroine of the American People’s Revolution”.

Images of fascists denigrating police officers and smashing the windows of a leftist workers’ union were a disturbing echo of the fascist attacks on communist groups that helped bring Mussolini to power a century ago. The acts drew condemnation across the political spectrum.

A Telegram group, “No Green Pass, We’ll Win Together”, made up of around 30,000 members, spoke of an upcoming “war”, strikes and work stoppages.

Italy’s interior minister admitted something went wrong last weekend, and Italian officials said controls would be much stricter on Friday.

The Democratic Party tabled a motion in parliament to dissolve neo-fascist groups, saying it was time to “end the ambiguity about fascism” in Italy. Conservative politicians, worried about the upcoming municipal elections across the country, have also sought to distance themselves from the violence.

Mr Draghi said on Tuesday that the government was studying the possibility of dissolving Forza Nuova.

Credit…Marzio Taniolo, via Reuters

Ernesto Milani, a baker from the city of Rovigo, in northern Italy, is skeptical of coronavirus vaccines. He thinks they are too experimental and is worried about the side effects. And he believes the Italian government is infringing on his freedom by urging him to get the vaccine.

And so on Friday his bakery is closed.

Mr Milani is closing his bakery to protest the new requirement that people in Italy who wish to work must have a health pass showing proof of vaccination, a negative coronavirus test or proof of recent recovery from Covid-19.

“To give in to the Green Pass is to give in to blackmail,” he declared.

But if Mr. Milani wants to work, he has to give in. Prime Minister Mario Draghi demands that all workers adhere to the government program.

Some unions and labor associations have warned that this could prove disastrous.

“We are naturally very worried, because almost a third of our workforce does not have a green pass,” said Ivano Russo, general manager of the largest Italian association of truck drivers, couriers and logistics operators, during a telephone interview.

Twenty-five to 30 percent of logistics workers in Italy have not been vaccinated, and given that Italians have had many opportunities to get vaccinated, they may not have plans to do so. do, he said.

“We have to be pragmatic,” Russo said. “We agree that we need to protect people’s health, but truck drivers drive alone and might even avoid getting out of their vans or trucks like they did in the first lockdown. Imagine Italian supermarkets with a third of the shelves empty. It could happen.

Already, the Milanese workers were planning to strike for the green passes. And in Rome, the already routed public transport company admitted that a large part of its workers were not vaccinated. In Trieste and Genoa, two of Italy’s main ports, workers staged strikes to demand the government pay for their swab tests.

José Nivoi, a union representative for port workers in Genoa, said around 20 percent were unvaccinated and the Green Pass would create divisions among them.

“You are putting thousands of families in a state of distress,” he said.

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