Italy first in Europe to require all employees to have COVID health pass

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By Euronews  with AFP, ANSA
olice officers check passenger's documents at the entrance of Porta Garibaldi train station, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021
olice officers check passenger's documents at the entrance of Porta Garibaldi train station, in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Italy has become the first European country to make COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers.

The Italian government approved a new measure on Thursday that makes digital vaccine certificates compulsory for both public and private sectors.

The obligation is set to begin from October 15 and remain in force until the end of the year.

"We are extending the obligation of the green pass to the entire world of work, public and private, and we are doing so for two essential reasons: to make these places safer and to make our vaccination campaign even stronger," health minister Roberto Speranza told the press.

The move aims to improve vaccine uptake and reduce the infection rate amid a potential surge in COVID-19 cases this winter.

All employees will be required to prove that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, are recovering from the infection, or have recently tested negative for the virus.

Only pensioners and unemployed citizens will reportedly be exempt from carrying a "green pass".

Any worker who fails to present a valid COVID-19 health certificate will be suspended without pay after five days, but cannot be sacked. Those non-vaccinated could also be fined up to €1,500.

The Italian Senate overwhelmingly voted in favour of the measure, with 189 in support, 32 against and just 2 abstentions.

While other European countries have made so-called "green passes" mandatory for healthcare workers, Italy is the first to extend the measure to all employees.

"The government is ready to speed up the introduction of the health pass," Regional Affairs Minister Mariastella Gelmini told Radio Rai on Wednesday.

"We are moving towards making the health pass compulsory not only in the public sector but also in the private sector."

Several other European countries have also made COVID-19 health passes mandatory in public venues such as restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, and theatres. This week, Greece also began testing unvaccinated workers in both public and private sectors.

A number of protests have been organised in recent weeks against the "green pass," with critics arguing that the measure tramples on freedoms.

Others have argued that COVID-19 should be given freely to workers who refuse to be vaccinated, to allow them to remain at work.

Ministers asked Italy to also extend the validity of COVID-19 tests from 48 hours to 72 hours.

Italy already made the 'green pass' mandatory for teachers and other public sector workers this month, while healthcare workers have required a vaccine since April.

Currently, almost 75% of Italy's population over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

"The vaccine is the only weapon we have against Covid and we can only contain infections by vaccinating the large majority of the population," said Gelmini.