COVID-19 health passes become mandatory in Italy, despite fears of disruption

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COVID-19 health passes - or "green passes" - are now compulsory for all workers in Italy.

The rule was approved by Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet in mid-September, forcing all workers to show either proof of vaccination, a negative test within the previous 48 hours, or recent recovery from infection.

Italy is one of a few countries that has made the pass a requirement for entering venues such as restaurants, cafes, gyms and museums.

It was hoped that the pass would encourage unvaccinated Italians to get the jab, with Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta predicting such an "enormous" acceleration of vaccinations that the goal of the pass could be largely achieved before it actually came into force.

The certification applies to public and private workplaces, having previously been rolled out for recreation activities and public transport.

According to a government document seen by Reuters news agency, 15% of private and 8% of public sector workers have no green pass.

But under the new rules they can be suspended without pay and fined if they work without it - a move that has been criticised by some.

The right wing League's Luca Zaia, governor of Veneto, said: "We will not be able to grant a swab every 48 hours to all
the unvaccinated.

"The business people I am in contact with are extremely worried."

The UIL union said in a statement: "This is a very restrictive measure that could have a serious impact on social stability and exacerbate an already complicated situation."

Unions said tests should be free for workers who don't want to be vaccinated, but the government said they would be capped at €15.

Many employers' federations, however, backed the pass in the hope it would prevent future lockdowns.

Last week, thousands of people protested against the passes in Rome.

At least one person was injured, according to Rai State TV, with police spraying water and swinging batons to ward off the protesters.

Italy has recorded 4.71 million cases of COVID-19 and 131,000 deaths - the second highest number of deaths in Europe after the UK.

As of 13 October, 41.9 million (70.4%) people have been fully vaccinated.

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In the UK, the government rowed back on plans to bring in a vaccine certificate system for access to large and crowded venues such as nightclubs, but has kept the option on the table as part of its "Plan B" for winter.

Care home workers will also need to be fully vaccinated by 11 November, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said the requirement is "highly likely" to be extended to all frontline NHS staff.

Last month, the French government said about 3,000 workers in hospitals, care homes and health centres have been suspended for failing to comply with mandatory COVID vaccination.

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