ITALY: With rising concern over the Omicron virus and a potential spike in coronavirus infections, Italy has become the latest country in Europe to enforce stringent norms for unvaccinated people with its super green health pass.
The “Covid Super Green Pass” starting Monday, allows only those vaccinated or recovered from the virus within the last six months to access cinemas, theatres, concerts, major sporting events and indoor restaurants.
Earlier, Italy’s basic health pass was enough to have access to such venues. This pass can be obtained by those vaccinated, recovered from COVID or providing a negative test.
First introduced in August, Italy’s basic health pass was then extended to workplaces in October. Authorities have now imposed that the basic green pass is required to get on local transport and to check into hotels.
The new measures strengthen the existing Covid green passes, so smartphone applications that verify people’s health pass status have been updated as per the “super pass” norms; preventing entry to concerts, movies or performances to those who have been tested negative in recent days. The measures run through January 15.
Initially, the passes were intended to make travel within the EU more efficient, but several countries have widened their use to limit infections and encourage vaccine uptake, considering the vacation and year-end season heating up.
In the past six weeks, Italy has seen a gradual rise in the number of new Covid-19 infections, even before concerns arose about the new Omicron variant.
However, the country’s vaccination rate is higher than many of its neighbours. According to the latest data, about 73% of the total population have been fully vaccinated and 11% have had booster shots.
How European countries are coping with the virus during the peak season
In recent weeks, European countries have put forth stringent restrictions on unvaccinated people in response to rising infections as winter approaches.
Several Italian cities have imposed rules urging people to wear facemasks, even in outdoor settings such as crowded shopping streets. Many cities including Rome and Milan have also ordered mask mandates outdoors owing to the worrying trend of holidays and shopping season.
France requires a health pass for entry into restaurants, bars, planes and trains. Austria and Cyprus are among other EU countries to have followed suit. Austria also imposed a lockdown for the unvaccinated in mid-November.
Neighbouring countries like Germany and Austria are moving toward making vaccines obligatory for certain groups, at the same time are tightening free-time restrictions on the unvaccinated at the most convivial time of the year, while allowing those who are vaccinated to go about life more or less as usual, just like Italy.
Austria imposed a lockdown for the unvaccinated in mid-November. Germany’s leaders have agreed to bar unvaccinated people from many public venues. Meanwhile, Greece has announced monthly fines of €100 (£85; $113) for anyone over 60 who remains unvaccinated.