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Italy becomes the first European country to require a COVID passport to go to work

September 17, 2021, 8:05 AM UTC

Italy will require all workers to have a valid COVID passport, as the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi moves to set the toughest vaccination requirements in Europe.

A cabinet meeting Thursday approved the measure, which applies to all public and private-sector workers and will come into force Oct. 15. Workers faces fines of as much as 1,500 euros ($1,763) for noncompliance, while employers who fail to check their workers may have to pay as much as 1,000 euros.

The wider use of the passports—dubbed Green Passes—had met fierce opposition from right-wing parties including Matteo Salvini’s League, which backs Draghi’s government. 

The government’s approval of a requirement to demonstrate vaccination, past COVID infection or a recent negative test before entering workplaces marks a victory for the premier, who’s signaled that he’s open to making inoculations mandatory if Italy’s vaccine drive falters. 

The new Green Pass mandate will affect about 18 million workers in the country. COVID tests will be free for those who cannot be vaccinated and available at low cost for everyone else.

A number of other countries are also stepping up requirements as vaccination rates start to plateau. U.S. President Joe Biden has announced new mandates covering federal employees and contractors, health care workers and many employees at private companies.

Almost 75% of eligible people in Italy have already received two shots of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 46% of those between 12 and 19 years of age, according to the Health Ministry.

Offsetting the new sweeping requirement, the government said it will review social distancing rules and limitations on attendance in cultural and sporting venues.

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