- All workers need a new COVID health pass starting Friday
- Protesters say Green Pass is discriminatory
- Government hopes move will encourage more people to get vaccinated
- More than 80% of Italians over 12 already vaccinated
TRIESTE, Italy, October 15 (Reuters) – Italy has made COVID-19 health passes compulsory for all workers from Friday in a test case for Europe, with the measure being applied mainly peacefully across the country despite dispersed protests.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office approved the rule – one of the toughest anti-COVID measures in the world – in September, requiring all workers from October 15 to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from infection.
Under the rule, in effect until the end of the year, workers without the so-called Green Pass will be suspended without pay and face a fine of up to 1,500 euros ($ 1,730). they try to work anyway.
The biggest protests took place in the large north-eastern port of Trieste, where groups of workers had threatened to block operations and around 6,000 protesters, some chanting and carrying flares, gathered outside the gates.
“The Green Pass is a bad thing, it is discrimination under the law. Nothing more. It is not a health regulation, it is just a political step to create the division between people … “said Fabio Bocin, a 59-year-old port. worker in Trieste.
Around 40% of Port workers in Trieste are unvaccinated, said Stefano Puzzer, a local union official, a much higher proportion than in the general Italian population.
Vaccine hostility is also higher in the city than in most of Italy, with an “anti-vax” party garnering 4.5% of the vote in municipal elections this month.
Regional Governor Massimiliano Fedriga told SkyTG24: “The port (of Trieste) is functioning. Obviously there will be difficulties and fewer people at work, but it is functioning”.
In Genoa, Italy’s other main port, around 100 protesters blocked access to trucks, a Reuters witness said.
In Rome, police in riot gear remained behind during a small rally where people shouted “No green pass”. Small demonstrations also took place in Turin and Bologna.
In some cities, pharmacies opened earlier than usual so people could get their swabs.
Outside the Rinascente department store in central Rome, small lines of salespeople and buyers trained as employee health certificates were checked by security personnel.
“I think it is a fair measure towards all those Italians who have tried to get out of this pandemic by being vaccinated … I do not see where the problem is”, said Fabio Bonanno, a resident of Rome.
Most Italians support the mandatory Green Pass, according to opinion polls, but protests turned violent in Rome last Saturday when protesters stormed the offices of the country’s largest union. Read more
About 15% of private sector workers and 8% of public sector workers do not have green passes, an internal government document seen by Reuters estimates.
The government was hoping that making the Green Pass mandatory would convince unvaccinated Italians to change their minds, but with over 80% over 12 years old already fully vaccinated and low infection rates, that increase did not materialize .
The right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties and some unions say that, to address the risk of staff shortages, the validity of COVID tests should be extended from 48 to 72 hours, and they should be made free for non-workers. vaccinated.
But the government has so far resisted these calls. The center-left Democratic Party, which is part of Draghi’s ruling coalition, says making the swabs free would amount to an amnesty for tax evaders.
However, some companies do offer free swabs to their staff. Motorcycle maker Ducati, for example, has said it will give free COVID testing to all employees until November 15.
Reporting by Alex Fraser in Trieste, Rome press room, Emilio Parodi in Genoa, Giulio Piovaccari in Milan, Stephen Jewkes in Bologna, written by Silvia Aloisi, edited by Gavin Jones and Gareth Jones
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