‘It is a bit annoying’: Italy’s Covid pass restrictions kick in

Green pass rule has prompted some protests but not on same scale as similar scheme in France

The ritual of coffee and breakfast at the bar in Italy has become slightly more complicated as restrictions on unvaccinated citizens kicked in.

People can still drink coffee and eat a cornetto, a type of croissant, while standing at the bar or sitting at an outside table without needing to present a so-called green pass. But not if they are seated inside.

“But Madam, you can’t eat your croissant inside without a green pass,” Pasquale Di Sirio, the owner of a bar in Rome’s Esquilino district, could be overheard telling a customer early on Friday morning. “You have to eat it outside.”

The woman left without any fuss, as did another customer who did not have the pass.

“It is a bit annoying having to do this as it’s essentially another job,” Di Sirio said. “On top of that, I also need to download an app which you use to check if a customer’s green pass is valid or not – but really, it is not my job to check people’s documents.”

The pass, which is an extension of the EU’s digital Covid certificate, is required to be served indoors at restaurants and to enter stadiums, museums, theatres, cinemas, exhibition centres, swimming pools and gyms.

From 1 September, the pass will be mandatory for teachers and university students and to travel on trains, planes, ferries and long-distance coaches.

It is available to those who have had at least one vaccine dose and to anyone who has recently recovered from Covid-19 or who presents proof of a negative test before accessing any of the activities under restriction.

Italy cases

In the days leading up to the pass becoming mandatory, some bar and restaurant owners reported being insulted and threatened by anti-vaxxers, or having had bad reviews written about their premises on Tripadvisor, after they warned customers about the requirement.

While there have been some protests across Italy since the pass was announced in July, the reaction has not been on the same scale as in France, where a similar initiative led to demonstrations with about 300,000 people taking to the streets in recent weeks. France’s constitutional court on Friday approved extending the requirement of the country’s health pass for bars and restaurants and to travel long distance by train or coach.

Anti-vaccine protest in Paris
An anti-vaccine protest in Paris on Thursday. Photograph: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

“It isn’t very nice having to ask customers for the pass, but we have no choice,” said Andreina, another Rome bar owner. “And if it encourages people to get vaccinated and we avoid another lockdown, then it’s a good thing.”

The Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, urged all Italians to get vaccinated when announcing the plan in July. “Without vaccinations, we’d have to close everything again,” he said.

The initiative provoked an immediate boost in the number of people booking vaccines. As of Friday, more than 62% of the population aged 12 and over had been fully vaccinated. In France, more than 7 million people have had their first inoculation since the president, Emmanuel Macron, announced the health pass on 12 July.

Italy’s green pass takes effect as the country scrambles to contain the spread of the Delta variant. Infections rose to 7,230 on Thursday, up from 6,596 on the previous day, while there were 27 coronavirus-related deaths. Italy has registered 128,163 Covid-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic – the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK and the eight highest in the world.

“If, say, we had the vaccines and the green pass in March or April, I probably wouldn’t have had to close,” said Valentina Santanicchio, who runs Capitano del Popolo restaurant in the Umbrian town of Orvieto. “So in such a situation, I believe the green pass is the only alternative. I also think the vaccine is the only chance we have. I honestly don’t understand the protests.”

The Italian government is also striving to ensure students and teachers can safely return to class in September after months of remote learning.

“I’ve had my vaccine and am strongly in favour of being vaccinated, but I disagree with the idea that if you don’t have the green pass then you can’t teach,” said Annalisa Distasi, a teacher in Umbria. “I think perhaps the priority ought to be getting students vaccinated.”


Angela Giuffrida in Rome and Kim Willsher in Paris

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