Tue, 19 Oct 2021

ROME, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- In a last indirect push to the ongoing vaccination campaign, Italy made the COVID-19 green pass mandatory for all people in the job market, both private and public sectors.

After a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet delivered the provision with a specific decree that will enter into force on Oct. 15, to give companies and public offices time to adjust.

The green pass certificate shows proof that a person has received at least one dose of the vaccine, or is fully immunized, or has recovered from the infection, or has tested negative in the last 48 hours.

Italy is the first country in the European Union (EU) to adopt such a stringent regulation. The step was intended as a further incentive to those millions of Italians who have not yet agreed to, or are openly against the vaccine, which remains strongly recommended but not mandatory here.

The non-vaccinated population would include at least 3.6 million people over 50 years old, according to recent data provided by the coronavirus emergency commissioner Francesco Paolo Figliuolo in early September.

In a joint press conference with public administration and labor ministers, Health Minister Roberto Speranza explained the measure had two simple but crucial goals.

"Firstly, to make all work places in the country safer and, secondly, to strengthen the vaccination campaign, on which we have very comforting," he said.

So far, health care workers and school staff in Italy were required to have the green pass. However, out of the job market, the certificate was already required since mid summer to access public transports, including trains, planes, and ferries for long-distance travels, to sit in restaurants and bars indoor, and to access public places such as libraries or leisure facilities.

Critics to the latest provision said it was the same as forcing vaccination surreptitiously. The measure, however, has been backed by most of the political parties, and main industrial and union associations.

Once the decree becomes effective, any workers failing to show the green pass will face suspension without pay, but no termination. Those who evade checks would be fined between 600 and 1,500 euros (about 705-1,763 U.S. dollars).

The rule will also concern self-employed people and workers in the country's top institutions, meaning parliament, ministries, and all judiciary bodies including presidency of the Republic and constitutional court.

Up to Thursday, Italy counted 40.6 million people fully immunized, or 74.9 percent of the target population aged above 12, according to the Health Ministry.

Since the pandemic broke out here in Feb. 2020, Italy has registered about 4.6 million coronavirus cases, including some 116,000 current active infections, over 130,000 fatalities, and 4.3 million recoveries.

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