Though technically the pass can be obtained with proof of antibodies or from a recent negative coronavirus test, those paths are far less straightforward than getting vaccinated. And in an evening news conference, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi made clear that his goal was to encourage vaccinations, which have flagged over the last month.
“I invite all Italians to get vaccinated and do it immediately,” Draghi said. Avoiding vaccination, he said, “is an appeal to die.”
The decision comes as the more transmissible delta variant spreads across Europe, triggering early warning signs in country after country about an oncoming wave. In Italy, after nearly two consecutive weeks with fewer than 1,000 daily cases, numbers are rising again; on Thursday, the government announced more than 5,000 cases. That level is far removed from the horrors of winter and spring, and with 46 percent of the population vaccinated, many in the country are widely protected from severe sickness and hospitalization. But it is the rest of the population that is causing concern.
The concern is also economic, as Italy is looking for ways to avoid a new round of closures and curfews. For now, every Italian region is “white” — meaning that life proceeds almost as normal, and people can stay out as late as they want. That has made for a joyful Italian summer, punctuated by a European Championship final victory that triggered through-the-night partying.
But already, scientists are wondering whether there will be a repeat of 2020, when people dropped their guard in the summer as the virus receded, only to see it come racing back. As part of its announcement Thursday, Italy laid out new guidelines for when regions might be hit with tightened restrictions, basing the determination around hospitalization levels, rather than the spread of positive cases.
“We want to avoid a growth in contagions bringing new general closures,” Roberto Speranza, the health minister, said. “The instrument we have is that of vaccinations.”
Previously, Italy had mandated use of what is known as its Green Pass only sparingly, for entrance to nursing homes, for instance, or for travel outside Italy. But the expanded mandatory use, which takes effect Aug. 6, will apply to sporting events, indoor dining, fairs, conferences, spas and casinos.
The Green Pass is a part of the European Union’s digital covid certificate program. In the news conference, neither Draghi nor Speranza made clear how the requirements would apply to tourists from non-E.U. countries. But a health ministry spokesman said that equivalent vaccination certificates, including those from the United States, would be recognized.
Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a similar set of measures, though with slightly more force — including requiring a health pass for forms of public transit. Vaccination appointments surged in the aftermath. But hundreds of thousands also took to the streets in protest.
In Italy, the decision to more widely use the Green Pass has been contentious. The leader of the far-right League, Matteo Salvini, said in an Italian newspaper interview several days ago that the pass should be used for stadiums, “but not for a pizza.” Salvini, who is part of Draghi’s wide-ranging coalition, noted Thursday on Twitter that Italy’s hospital situation was “under control, and he said “freedom” was a guiding principle. There are 158 coronavirus patients in intensive care in Italy, compared with roughly 4,000 at the height of previous waves.