ROM (AP) – The Italian government decided on Wednesday to exclude unvaccinated people from certain leisure activities in an attempt to curb growing coronavirus infections and ward off financially devastating deadlines just as the economy begins to grow again.
From next week, only people with evidence of vaccination or that they have recovered from covid-19 can eat at indoor restaurants and go to cinemas or sporting events, excluding the possibility of accessing such arenas with only a negative test.
A new government decree also made vaccinations mandatory for law enforcement agencies, the military and all school staff. Previously, vaccines were only required for caregivers and teachers.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the measures were necessary to prevent the “slow but steady” increase in infections from growing while maintaining profits Italy has done in restarting the EU’s third largest economy, which shrank by 8.9% last year.
The concern is particularly acute given the upcoming holiday tourism season and the winter wave of infections. Regional officials in the north, for example, are desperate for Italys ski industry, which normally generates 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.5 billion) in annual revenue and employs 5,000 permanent and 10,000 seasonal workers, to stay open after losing two seasons to covid-19.
“We have begun to return to normal. We want to maintain this normality,” Draghi told a news conference after the government unanimously approved the measures.
Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began in February 2020, sees an increase in infections but to a greater extent than other EU countries, and registers about 10,000 new cases and fewer than 100 deaths a day.
It has completely vaccinated more than 84% of the population over the age of 12, but the times for the first dose have leveled off and 20 small towns in the north Italy where the vaccination rate is among the lowest in the country went into semi-lockdown on Wednesday as infections there increased rapidly.
The purpose of the new measures is to prevent such total locks – a curfew at. 20: 00-05: 00 and closing of bars and restaurants at 18.00 – returns across the board. The new decree would allow restaurants and other meeting places to remain open even when cases arise and hospitals are filled, but only for those who have evidence of vaccination or that they have recovered from covid-19.
Unlike other countries, Italy never relaxed many of its restrictions even when the cases were filled with the vaccine: Mandates for indoor masks remain and Italy last month became the first country in the west that requires a health passport to access the workplace.
The so-called “Green Card” contained evidence of vaccination, cured by covid-19 or a negative test. With the new decree, the government introduces a “reinforced” Green Pass that excludes the possibility of testing certain indoor activities.
For example, non-vaccinated people will not be able to go to the cinema or theater or eat indoors from December 6 to January. 15, or after this date in regions where rates of infection and hospitalization increase.
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 necessary for long-distance public transport.
The decree calls on local authorities to draw up stricter controls and report weekly to the Ministry of the Interior on how to implement the new measures.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza acknowledged Italy did better than many of its neighbors but said the country had learned that the key to fighting the pandemic was preventive and proactive measures.
“Staying ahead of the virus is fundamental if you want to keep the situation under control,” he said.
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