Labour Minister Andrea Orlando said that no one risked being fired if they didn’t present a Green Pass, and the Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta acknowledged that checks in some workplaces would have to be random.
“It is very likely that the effect of the announcement will already bring in the next four weeks an acceleration in Green Passes, yes, but also of vaccinations,” Brunetta said. “The result could already be achieved, or partially achieved, or perhaps — optimistically — exceeded, before the decree even takes effect.”
Italy surpassed the threshold of 80 per cent of the eligible population having received at least one dose of the vaccine this month, with more than 81.7 million vaccine doses administered as of Thursday. Three-quarters of the population, or 40.5 million people, are fully vaccinated.
While the Green Pass was supported by parties across the political spectrum, critics have signalled concerns about a gradual and ongoing erosion of civil liberties during the pandemic. Court challenges are likely, as the right to work is enshrined in Italy’s constitution.
Legal expert Vitalba Azzollini, a fellow at the Bruno Leoni Institute think tank, said the measures lacked the necessary transparency to evaluate if they are proportionate to the situation, without specific goals for adequate vaccination coverage, or guidelines on exactly how often the Green Passes need to be checked.
In addition, she noted, such decrees are supposed to be for emergency situations but this one had been approved a full month before implementation.
“The Green Pass is not a nudge to get vaccinated, it is a not-so-gentle push,” she said.
Italy was the first country in the West to be hit by local transmission of the virus in February 2020, and the government took the extraordinary measure of closing all non-essential manufacturing for seven weeks as part of a draconian lockdown.
The Green Pass requirement covers 14.7 million private sector workers and 3.2 million in state-supported jobs.
Until now, only medical personnel have been obliged to be vaccinated, while the Green Pass mandate was in place only for school employees. Green Passes also are necessary for indoor leisure activities, such as dining, theatre-going or museum visits, and for long-distance domestic travel.
Azzollini also underlined the difficulty in enforcing the Green Pass rules. She noted that even though medical personnel have been subject to an obligation to be vaccinated since April, only a handful have been suspended.
In France, hospitals, care homes and health centres have suspended around 3000 workers in total for failing to comply with mandatory COVID vaccination. President Emmanuel Macron decided in mid-July people would be required to present a health pass to go anywhere from restaurants to gyms and museums, and make the jab mandatory for health workers.
With the mandate for health workers taking effect on Wednesday, its very concrete impact – unvaccinated staff are forbidden to work – started to be felt. According to local daily Nice Matin, nearly 450 health workers – out of 7500 – have been suspended in just one hospital in the southern city of Nice.