- Private and public employees must have a health card
- Draghi seems to increase vaccinations, blunt virus
- Italy will be a test case for the rest of Europe
- Minister says relocation puts the country “at the forefront” globally
ROM, September 16 (Reuters) – The Italian government on Thursday approved some of the most stringent anti-COVID measures in the world, making it mandatory for all workers to either show evidence of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.
The new rules come into force on October 15 in the latest effort by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition to persuade people to be inoculated and bluntly infected in one of the countries hardest hit by the virus.
Any worker who does not present a valid health certificate will be suspended without pay but cannot be fired, ministers told reporters after the cabinet approved the measures.
People who ignore the decree and go to work regardless will be fined between 600 to 1,500 euros ($ 705- $ 1,175). The sanction for employers will be 400-1000 euros.
“Nothing like this has been done in Europe … we put ourselves at the forefront internationally,” said Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta.
He added that the government expected a “huge” acceleration of jabs simply by promulgating the decree so much of its desired effect could be achieved before it actually takes effect in a month’s time.
While some EU states have ordered their health workers to get vaccines, no one has made the so-called “Green Pass” mandatory for all employees, making Italy a test case for the continent.
The passport was originally conceived to facilitate travel around Europe, but Italy was among a group of countries that quickly also made it a requirement for those wishing to access places such as museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants.
Draghi, who was not present at Thursday’s press conference, had previously faced opposition to his extension of the Green Pass from right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, one of the key stakeholders in his government.
However, Salvini’s Liga party is divided on the issue and the Cabinet finally approved the decree unanimously.
There have been sporadic protests around the country in recent weeks against the growing pressure to get a stab, but most political parties as well as the main employers’ associations have backed this, hoping it will prevent further lockdowns.
Union leaders have been more lukewarm, saying tests should be given free of charge to workers who refuse to be vaccinated so they can keep working.
The government rejected this request, but said the price of tests would be limited to 15 euros for work purposes, significantly below current costs.
Italy has the second highest death toll in COVID-19 in Europe after the UK, where more than 130,000 people have died from the disease since the pandemic appeared in early 2020.
About 74% of the population of 60 million people have had at least one COVID-19 shot, and 68% are fully vaccinated, figures largely in line with most other EU countries.
Italian health fund Gimbe stressed the importance of jabs and said in a report on Thursday that almost all COVID-19 patients currently in hospital were unvaccinated.
The report said vaccines had helped reduce deaths in Italy by 96.3%, hospitalizations by 93.4% and intensive care units by 95.7%.
In March, Italy ordered health workers to be vaccinated or suspended. As of today, 728 doctors have been suspended, the medical association announced on Thursday. It was not immediately clear how many nurses or nurses had refused to follow.
A similar measure in France came into force on Wednesday. Health Minister Olivier Veran said Thursday that about 3,000 health workers had been suspended for their lack of vaccination. Read more
Additional reporting by Gavin Jones, written by Crispian Balmer and Gavin Jones; Edited by Janet Lawrence
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