Europe

Italy braces for protests as COVID pass becomes mandatory for workers

Italy is braced for protests today as its COVID health pass becomes mandatory for all workers.

Thousands demonstrated against the move in Rome on Saturday and further action is planned across the country over the next 48 hours.

The new rule means employees will have to show the pass to enter their place of work. The pass proves the individual has been vaccinated, has recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months and or has recently tested negative.

Employees and employers risk fines if they don’t comply. Public sector workers can be suspended if they show up five times without the pass.

The pass is already required in Italy to enter museums, theatres, gyms and indoor restaurants, as well as to take long-distance trains and buses or domestic flights.

More than 85% of Italians over the age of 12 have received at least one dose, but up to three million more, unvaccinated, are at risk of being denied access to their workplaces.

Dockers in Trieste, a major port in the northeast, have threatened to block activity, while disruptions are possible in road transport.

Ivano Russo, director-general of Confetra, the Italian General Confederation of Transport and Logistics, an employers’ association, told AFP that out of a total of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers and warehouse workers, “between 25 and 30 %” do not have a health pass.

The government has offered free tests to dockers in Trieste, while some terminal operators in the port of Genoa offer to pay themselves.

“The real problem with the Green Pass for the port of Genoa, and in general for all ports, will be road transport,” Roberto Gulli, of the Uil union, told La Repubblica newspaper. “There could be chaos on Friday.”

Meanwhile, the government is determined to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s violence, blamed on a small far-right group, Forza Nuova, which experts say infiltrated the protests.

The government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi has defended the health pass as a way to avoid further lockdowns in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, which has killed more than 130,000 and led to a drop in its GDP of 8.9% in 2020.

The vaccination program has kept infection rates low and Italy is expected to grow 5.8% this year, according to the latest IMF forecast.

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