Italy enforces COVID-19 health pass with minimal resistance

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COVID-19 health passes became mandatory for all workers in Italy from Friday, with the measure being applied mostly peacefully across the country despite some scattered protests.

At the major port of Trieste, where some labour groups had threatened to block operations in protest against the rule, the situation appeared largely calm, with some workers demonstrating but others being allowed to carry on as usual.

"The Green Pass is a bad thing, it is discrimination under the law. Nothing more. It's not a health regulation, it's just a political move to create division among people...," said Fabio Bocin, a 59-year old port worker in Trieste.

In Rome, police in riot gear stood by in front of a small rally with people shouting 'No Green Pass.'

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet approved the rule - one of the world's strictest anti-COVID measures - in mid-September, making it obligatory from October 15 for all workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.

Some 15 per cent of private and 8 per cent of public sector workers have no Green Pass, an internal government document seen by Reuters estimates.

Under the new rules, effective until year-end, those without the certificate will be suspended without pay and face a fine of up to 1,500 euros ($1,730) if they try to work.

The government hoped the move making the health pass mandatory would convince unvaccinated Italians to change their minds, but with over 80% of residents over the age of 12 already fully inoculated and infection rates low, that surge has not materialised.

The rightist League and Brothers of Italy parties and some unions say that, to address the risk of staff shortages, the validity of COVID tests should be extended from 48 to 72 hours, and they should be free for unvaccinated workers.

But the government has so far resisted those calls.

The centre-left Democratic Party, which is part of Draghi's ruling coalition, says that making swabs free would be the equivalent of an amnesty for tax dodgers. 

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