ROME – In an effort to stem the rise in coronavirus infections and prevent closures affecting everyone, Italy announced new restrictions on Wednesday for the unvaccinated, barring them from dining indoors in restaurants and bars. attending shows, sporting events and public ceremonies; and go to nightclubs.
“We want to be very careful,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We want to keep this normality.”
The decision came after the presidents of Italy’s most infected regions pressured the government to take action against the unvaccinated, fearing that new locks and restrictions would impede economic recovery in a country that imposed the first isolation in Europe and experienced some of the most devastating consequences of the pandemic.
“I don’t think anyone prefers isolation over different measures for citizens who have protected themselves with the vaccine and citizens who have chosen not to,” Giovanni Toti, president of the northern region of Liguria, said last week. “We need to reassure families, citizens and businesses that this country will no longer close.”
Beginning in the summer, Italy began to make extensive use of health passes, called the Green Pass, as its primary strategy for fighting the virus. People who want to visit restaurants, museums, gyms, theaters and high-speed trains need to show proof of vaccination, negative express smear, or recent recovery from the virus.
In October, Italy became the first major European country to require a Green Pass for all workers, private and public, to receive their wages.
Italian health authorities say the measure has largely pushed Italians towards vaccinations and reduced the severity of the fourth wave compared to other European countries. But about 13 percent of the country’s adult population has yet to receive vaccinations.
Under the new restrictions announced on Wednesday, the unvaccinated will be prohibited from participating in a wide range of social activities starting December 6 and continuing through January 15. But if they have a negative smear result, they will be admitted to work.
If further surges in Italian regions call for tighter restrictions, they will only apply to the unvaccinated.
The government has extended the existing mandate to vaccinate health care workers to include school teachers and school staff, as well as law enforcement officials. The booster shot will also become a must for these categories.
The Green Pass will now also be required for public buses and regional trains, as well as hotel stays.
Thousands of people gathered at the Circus Maximus in Rome and Milan over the weekend to protest against the Green Pass, denouncing the “dictatorship.”
But with hospital beds and intensive care units filled with unvaccinated patients, Italy has joined a group of countries that are tightening their approach to citizens avoiding vaccinations.
Italy’s announcement follows Austria’s pioneering decision to introduce isolation for the unvaccinated, limiting travel to work, school, grocery shopping and medical care. Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also announced additional restrictions for the unvaccinated in the country, barring them from going to cinemas, theaters and gyms.
A French government spokesman said Wednesday that the country will tighten health insurance rules, speed up the vaccination campaign and strengthen social distancing rules.
Constant Mehe provided reportage from France