Italy imposes new restrictions on the unvaccinated

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ROME – In an effort to halt a resurgence in coronavirus infections and prevent closures affecting everyone, Italy announced new restrictions for the unvaccinated on Wednesday, preventing them from eating indoors at restaurants and bars; attend shows, sporting events and public ceremonies; and go to nightclubs.

“We want to be very careful,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told a news conference on Wednesday. “We want to maintain this normality.”

The decision came after presidents of the most infected Italian regions pressured the government to crack down on the unvaccinated, worried that new deadlocks and restrictions would hamper the economic recovery of a country that introduced Europe’s first deadlock and experienced some of the pandemic’s most devastating consequences.

“I do not think anyone prefers a lock-up over various measures for citizens who protected themselves with a vaccine and citizens who chose not to do so,” said Giovanni Toti, president of the northern region of Liguria, last week. “We must assure families, citizens and businesses that this country will not close again.”

From the summer, Italy adopted the widespread use of a health pass – called the Green Pass – as its primary strategy to combat the virus. People who want access to indoor restaurants, museums, gyms, theaters and high-speed trains must show evidence of vaccination, a negative rapid test or have recently recovered from the virus.

In October, Italy became the first major European country to requires a Green Pass for all workers, private and public, to earn their wages.

The Italian health authorities say that the measure has largely pushed Italians to get vaccinated and reduced the severity of the fourth wave compared to other European countries. But about 13 percent of the country’s adults have still not received a syringe.

Under the new restrictions announced on Wednesday, the unvaccinated will be barred from a wide range of social activities starting on December 6 and lasting until January 15. But if they have a negative swab test, they will have to go to work.

If additional peaks in Italian regions require stricter restrictions, they will only apply to the unvaccinated.

The government extended a vaccination mandate that was already in place for health care workers to teachers and school staff and to law enforcement officials. The booster shot will also be mandatory for these categories.

The green passport will now also be required to use public buses and regional trains, and to stay in hotels.

Thousands of people gathered at the Circus Maximus in Rome and in Milan last weekend to protest the green passport and condemn a “dictatorship”.

But with hospital beds and intensive care units filled with unvaccinated patients, Italy joined a group of countries that are sharpening their attitude towards citizens who avoid the shot.

Italy’s announcement followed a pioneering decision by Austria to introduce one lockdown for the unvaccinated, restricts their movements to travel for work, school, food and health care. Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also announced more restrictions for the country’s unvaccinated, preventing them from going to cinemas, theaters and gyms.

A spokesman for the French government said on Wednesday that the country would tighten its health pass, speed up its vaccination campaign and strengthen the rules on social distancing.

Constant Méheut contributed reporting from France

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