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Italy to roll out COVID health pass for bars, restaurants and museums

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
Tourists wear face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 as they listen to a tour guide outside the ancient Colosseum, in Rome, May 21, 2021.
Tourists wear face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 as they listen to a tour guide outside the ancient Colosseum, in Rome, May 21, 2021.   -   Copyright  Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP

A COVID-19 health pass will be required to visit a host of Italian venues including bars and restaurants from August 6, the government announced on Thursday. 

In addition to hospitality businesses, a health pass — called a green pass in Italy — will be mandatory to access swimming pools, gyms and sports halls, sports events, concerts, fairs and cultural venues including museums, cinemas, and theatres. Nightclubs are not included in the measure and will remain closed for now. 

The health pass will attest that the holder has either received at least one dose of the vaccine, has recovered from the disease or tested negative in the previous 48 hours. It was already required to attend wedding receptions and to visit nursing homes. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday evening after the cabinet meeting that approved the measure that the "health pass is an instrument to allow Italians to continue their activities with the guarantee of not being among contagious people."

He also stressed that "the green pass is not an arbitrary matter; it is a condition to keep economic activity open."

"Even in the definition of the parameters, the choice was to either proceed normally with many regions in the yellow zone - because they would have exceeded the previous parameters - or to introduce the green pass and change the parameters to keep the regions in the white zone, but with the green pass," he added.

The adoption of the measure has been the subject of tensions within the government majority, with the leader of the far-right League party, Matteo Salvini, warning against "draconian, improvised and unmeasured choices that exclude the majority of Italians from their right to work and to move freely".

It comes as the number of COVID-19 cases across Italy crossed the 5,000 mark on Thursday for the first time since May 21. Infections have now been rising for four consecutive weeks. 

"The Delta variant is a threat, because it spreads faster than the other variants," Draghi warned. 

"I invite all Italians to get vaccinated, and to do so immediately," he urged, while welcoming the fact that "more than half of Italians have completed the vaccination cycle".

In France, tens of thousands of people protested last weekend ahead of the rollout of a mandatory health pass requirement for leisure and cultural venues. Protesters accused the government of trying to force people to get vaccinated.

The measure is expected to be extended to bars, restaurants, shopping centres and on long-distance public transport in early August after MPs approved the proposed bill on Thursday morning.