Italy government

Italian government targets unvaccinated with restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise

The Italian government decided on Wednesday to exclude unvaccinated people from certain leisure activities in a bid to contain the rise in coronavirus infections and avoid financially crippling lockdowns as the economy begins to grow again.

From December 6, only people with proof of vaccination or having recovered from COVID-19 can eat in indoor restaurants and go to the cinema or sporting events, excluding the possibility of accessing these places with just a test. negative.

A new government decree has also made vaccinations mandatory for law enforcement, military and all school employees, among others. Previously, vaccines were only required for healthcare workers and anyone working in nursing homes.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the measures were necessary to prevent the “slow but steady” rise in infections from growing while preserving the gains Italy has made in restarting the European Union’s third-largest economy, which has fell 8.9% last year.

FILE – Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi speaks during a press conference, following a special cabinet meeting to discuss coronavirus restrictions, in Rome, Italy, Wednesday, November 24, 2021 .

The concern is particularly acute given the upcoming holiday tourism season and the winter surge of infections. Regional officials in the north, for example, are desperate for Italy’s ski industry, which normally generates 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in annual revenue and employs 5,000 permanent workers and 10 000 seasonal workers, remains open after losing two seasons due to COVID-19.

“We have started to return to normality. We want to keep this normality,” Draghi told a press conference after the Cabinet unanimously approved the measures.

Italy, where the European outbreak began in February 2020, is seeing an increase in infections, but to a more measured degree than other EU countries, recording around 10,000 new cases and less than 100 deaths per day.

It has fully vaccinated more than 84% of its population over the age of 12, but first-dose appointments have stabilized and 20 small towns in northern Italy where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the countries went into semi-lockdown on Wednesday because infections there were rising rapidly.

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The aim of the new measures is to prevent such general closures – an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and the closing of bars and restaurants at 6 p.m. – from returning at all levels. The new executive order would allow restaurants and other venues to remain open even as cases rise and hospitals fill up, but only to those with proof of vaccination or who have recovered from COVID-19.

Unlike other countries, Italy has never relaxed many of its restrictions, even though cases have been vaccinated: indoor mask mandates remain in place and Italy last month became the first Western countries to require a health pass to access the workplace.

The so-called “Green Pass” contained proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test. With the new decree, the government introduces a “reinforced” Green Pass which excludes the possibility of testing certain indoor activities.

Unvaccinated people, for example, will not be able to go to the cinema or theater or eat indoors from December 6 to January 1. 15, or later in areas with rising infection and hospital admission rates.

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The decree also added activities for which even a basic green pass is required, including checking into a hotel or using regional or local public transport. Previously, a Green Pass was only required for long-distance public transport.

The decree calls on local authorities to devise reinforced controls and to report weekly to the Ministry of the Interior on how they will apply the new measures.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza acknowledged Italy was doing better than many of its neighbours, but said the country had learned that the key to tackling the pandemic lay in preventive and proactive measures.

“Staying ahead of the virus is fundamental if you want to keep the situation under control,” he said.