Health pass must to grace events in Italy


Italian fans will need health pass for return to stadiums Image: Juventus Turin

Italy has stepped up pressure on that section of the population which has still not taken the COVID-19 jab, announcing that a digital or printed health pass would be necessary for accessing a range of everyday leisure activities, from theaters to indoor dining.

‘The Washington Post’ stated that the above decision puts Italy in a rare category along with France among Western nations that have been willing to leverage certain freedoms and equalities now that vaccines have become widely available. Italy is essentially betting that it can revive its slowing vaccination campaign – and avoid future, onerous restrictions – by creating heavy incentives for inoculation, in the kind of step that would be politically unthinkable in the United States.

Though technically the pass can be obtained with proof of antibodies or from a recent negative coronavirus test, but adopting those paths are not a cakewalk. So, the best bet in Italy is to get the shot in the arms.

At a presser held on the evening of July 23rd, the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi made it clear in no specific terms that his goal was to encourage vaccinations, which have flagged over the last month.

Asserted Draghi, “I invite all Italians to get vaccinated and do it immediately. Avoiding vaccination is an appeal to die.”

Delta heat on Europe

The above decision comes as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads across Europe, triggering early warning signs in country after country about an oncoming wave. In Italy, after nearly two consecutive weeks with fewer than 1,000 daily cases, numbers are rising again with the Government announcing more than 5,000 cases on July 22nd. That level is far removed from the horrors of winter and spring when Italy went through the COVID-19 catastrophe, and with 46 percent of the population vaccinated, many in the country are widely protected from severe sickness and hospitalization. But it is the unvaccinated population which is making the Government lose sleep.

To top it all, there are the economic concerns as well as Italy is looking for ways to avoid a new round of closures and curfews. For now, every Italian region is ‘white’ – meaning that life proceeds almost as normal, and people can stay out as late as they want. That has made for a joyful Italian summer, punctuated by a European Championship final victory that triggered through-the-night partying.

‘The Washington Post’ further stated that already, scientists are wondering whether there will be a repeat of 2020, when people dropped their guard in the summer as the virus receded, only to see it sting back with more force. As part of its announcement on July 22nd, Italy laid out new guidelines for when regions might be hit with tightened restrictions, basing the determination around hospitalization levels, rather than the spread of positive cases.

Asserted Health Minister Roberto Speranza, “We want to avoid a growth in contagions bringing new general closures. The instrument we have is that of vaccinations.”

Previously, Italy had mandated use of what is known as its ‘Green Pass’ only sparingly, for entrance to nursing homes, for instance, or for travel outside Italy. But the expanded mandatory use, which takes effect from August 6th, will apply to sporting events, indoor dining, fairs, conferences, spas, and casinos.

The ‘Green Pass’ is a part of the European Union’s digital COVID certificate program. In the presser, neither Draghi nor Speranza gave a clear picture as to how the requirements would apply to tourists from non-European Union (EU) countries. But a Health Ministry spokesman said that equivalent vaccination certificates, including those from the United States, would be recognized.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a similar set of measures, though slightly more stringent – including requiring a health pass for forms of public transit. Vaccination appointments surged in the aftermath. But hundreds of thousands also took to the streets in protest.

In Italy, the decisions to more widely use the ‘Green Pass’ has been contentious. The leader of the far-Right League, Matteo Salvini, stated that the pass should be used for stadiums, “but not for a pizza”. Salvini, who is part of Draghi’s wideranging coalition, tweeted that Italy’s hospital situation was “under control”, and he said “freedom” was a guiding principle. There are 158 coronavirus patients in intensive care in Italy, compared with roughly 4,000 at the height of previous waves.

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