MILAN (AP) – Italian workers in the public and private sectors must display a health pass to access their workplace from October 15 under a decree adopted on Thursday by the broad-based coalition government of the Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The measures are the first of a large European economy requiring proof of vaccination, a recent negative virus test or a cure from COVID in the past six months for all categories of workers.
“The Green Pass is an instrument of freedom, which will help us make workplaces safer,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said at a press conference. “The second reason is to strengthen our vaccination campaign. “
Slovenia and Greece adopted similar measures this week. But Italy’s 2,000 billion euros ($ 2.35 trillion) economy, the third largest in the European Union, is a much larger target, and the measure underlines the government’s determination to avoid another lockdown even as the number of new viral infections increases, mainly among the unvaccinated.
Ministers said the measures were aimed at bolstering Italy’s economic recovery, with GDP set to rise 6% this year, at a critical time in the pandemic as schools reopen and cooler weather in the fall. moves more activity indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. They also expressed concern about the impact of possible new variants.
Workers face fines of up to 1,500 euros ($ 1,765) and employers up to 1,000 euros if they fail to comply. Public sector employees risk suspension if they accumulate five no-show absences with a Green Pass; private sector workers can be suspended after the first failure. The measures remain in force as long as Italy is in a state of emergency, currently until December 31.
Labor Minister Andrea Orlando said no one risked being made redundant if they did not present a green pass, and Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta acknowledged that checks at some workplaces should be random.
“It is very likely that the effect of the announcement will already lead to an acceleration of Green Passes, yes, but also vaccinations within the next four weeks,” Brunetta said. “The result may already be achieved, or partially achieved, or perhaps – hopefully – exceeded, even before the decree goes into effect.”
Unions and right-wing parties lobbied unsuccessfully for COVID testing to be provided to workers free of charge. The price will be set at 15 euros for adults, and 8 euros for children under 18.
Italy has passed the threshold of 80% of the eligible population having received at least one dose of the vaccine this month, with more than 81.7 million doses of the vaccine administered through Thursday. Three quarters of the population, or 40.5 million people, are fully immunized.
While the Green Pass was supported by parties from all political stripes, critics raised concerns about a gradual and continued erosion of civil liberties during the pandemic. Legal challenges are likely, as the right to work is enshrined in the Italian constitution.
Legal expert Vitalba Azzollini, a member of the Bruno Leoni Institute think tank, said the measures lack the transparency needed to assess whether they are proportionate to the situation, without specific targets for adequate immunization coverage, or guidelines on the exact frequency that the green passes need. to be checked.
In addition, she noted, such decrees are supposed to be for emergency situations but this had been approved a full month before implementation.
“The Green Pass is not a boost to get vaccinated, it’s a not-so-sweet push,” she said.
Italy was the first Western country to be affected by local transmission of the virus in February 2020, and the government has taken the extraordinary step of shutting down all non-essential manufacturing for seven weeks as part of a draconian lockdown.
The Green Pass requirement covers 14.7 million private sector workers and 3.2 million state-supported jobs.
Until now, only medical staff were required to get vaccinated, while the Green Pass mandate was only in place for school employees. Green passes are also required for indoor leisure activities, such as dining, theater or museum visits, and long-distance domestic travel.
Azzollini also underlined the difficulty of enforcing the rules of the Green Pass. She noted that even though medical staff have been required to be vaccinated since April, only a handful have been suspended.
Elena Becatoros in Athens and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade contributed.
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