Rome, Italy—Italy on Thursday made its anti-COVID “green pass” obligatory for all employees, in a bid to boost vaccine rates ahead of the winter flu season.
The law, which will penalize workers who are unvaccinated or do not have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test, is set to come into effect on October 15.
“We’re extending the ‘green pass’ obligation to the entire world of work, both public and private,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza told a press conference after the government took the decision.
“And we’re doing it for two basic reasons: to make these places safer and make our vaccination campaign stronger,” Speranza said.
The pass is a certificate that shows whether someone has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative in the previous 48 hours, or recently recovered from the virus.
It is currently mandatory for indoor-dining in restaurants, for cinemas and sports stadiums, intercity trains and buses or domestic flights, and for teachers.
Just over 40 million people are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in Italy, roughly equivalent to 75 percent of the population over the age of 12. And the government hopes to boost that figure by another four million.
Under the new law, workers failing to produce a pass will face fines of up to 1,000 euros ($1,200), according to media reports. Unjustified absences due to failure to secure a pass could lead to the employee being suspended, they said.
Even within the medical establishment where inoculation is obligatory, the vaccine faces obstacles.
The FNOMCeO medical association told AFP Thursday that 728 doctors have been suspended for not being vaccinated.
Among teaching staff, 93.1 percent have been completely vaccinated or have received at least a first dose, while another 6.7 percent are awaiting a first dose or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, according to the government.
The government’s decision concerns “a total of 23 million workers, the country’s entire human capital,” said Renato Brunetta, the public administration minister.
Italy was the first European country to be hit by a wave of coronavirus cases in February 2020, and plunged into a major recession. More than 130,000 people with COVID-19 have since died.
Italy is not the first European country to oblige workers to either be vaccinated or take regular tests.
Since September 13, unvaccinated employees in the private and public sectors in Greece have had to be tested at their own expense once or twice a week, depending on their profession.
In Slovenia, the health pass has been mandatory at work since Wednesday.
In France, the pass is required for workers who have contact with the public.