ROME , -- A stringent anti-coronavirus measure in Europe, which was put into effect Friday, required all workers from maids to magistrates to obtain a health pass in order to gain entry to their workplace.
The police were present, schools closed early, and embassies warned of possible violence. This was in response to concerns that anti-vaccination protests might turn violent as in Rome last weekend.
"Green Pass" is proof that you have been vaccinated, had a negative test in recent months or that you have recovered from COVID-19 within the last six months. They were required to have access to all indoor spaces in Italy, such as museums, theatres, and long-distance train stations.
However, the introduction of the workplace requirement has caused heated debate in a country that was an early coronavirus epicenter and where vaccination rates among the highest in Europe.
Loris Mazzarato, an anti-vaccine protester said that "Today they are walking on our Constitution." "I say NO" to this discrimination.
He was one of the many demonstrators in Trieste where port workers refused to show a Green Pass, threatening to disrupt commercial activities. However, early reports indicated that the port was still operational. In a peaceful demonstration in Florence, protesters shouted "Liberta", which means freedom.
This new rule, which was imposed in the country that had the first COVID-19 production shut down in the West, imposes a heavy burden on both worker and employer. Fines could be imposed to discourage compliance. At higher places of employment, like the office of the Italian Premier Mario Draghi or the headquarters of Trenitalia state railway company Trenitalia, electronic scanners were installed that can read QR codes from cellphones with the Green Pass.
Employers and managers must download an app to scan the codes at restaurants and tennis clubs. Although it was not clear how strict Italy would enforce this requirement, employers were forced to comply at least initially due to the fear of spot checks.
Employers who fail to verify employees are subject to sanctions ranging from 400 to 1,000 Euros. An employer can sanction workers who fail to present a Green Pass to work. Workers who show up to work without valid Green Passes could be subject to fines ranging from 600 to 1,500 Euros.
There were some anomalies, however. Supermarket cashiers and hairdressers must have a "Green Pass", but their clients do not need one and can only wear a mask indoors.
If recent days are any indication, this new rule is encouraging more shots. The 81% of people over 12 years old have been fully vaccinated. However, the number of shots given Thursday jumped 34% compared with the beginning of the week. This was according to Italy's virus czar.
For those who are unable or unwilling to get their shots, the increased pass requirement means that they must be tested every 48 hours to allow them to return to work. Exempt are people with a medical condition that prohibits them from being vaccinated.
While some employers offer free testing at work, the government has rejected calls for universal free testing. Current rapid tests cost between 8 and 15 euros for children and adults.
Luca Zaia (the governor of Veneto) warned that Italy's testing capacity was its Achilles' heel in the initial wave of the pandemic. He asked the government to allow people to get Green Passes using results from at-home tests, rather than going to a pharmacy to take a quick test.
Zaia stated, "If the law states that people have the right work with a testing every 48 hours,"
The new requirement was not met with approval by the Vatican. Three Swiss Guards resigned and three more were suspended after refusing to be vaccinated prior to the Vatican's green card requirement.
Since the new rule does not require vaccination, a negative test or proof that you have been cured from COVID-19 is an alternative way to obtain it. Only health care workers in Italy are required to get vaccinated. Teachers and school administrators also have to have a Green Pass since Sept. 1.
However, the requirement was not only for European workers but also for all other types of workers. France has provided a "virus pass", which allows access to indoor events and activities since the summer. However, it is not required for all employees who work with the public. Health workers, retirees and those who care for the disabled need to be fully vaccinated. This includes psychologists, osteopaths and chiropractors as well as medical students. All firefighters and soldiers must be vaccinated.
Employers in Greece must keep a record of employees' vaccination status. The worker must have a valid vaccination certificate that can either be scannable using a government app or paid for weekly testing.
The U.S. Biden administration issued sweeping rules in September requiring employers that have more than 100 employees to test positive for the virus every week. This mandated approximately 80 million Americans to get vaccinated. The 17 million federal Medicare and Medicaid workers must also be fully vaccinated. Federal employees, contractors, and executive branch employees are required to get vaccinated.