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Italians adopt (for the most part) a ‘green pass’ to prove vaccination from day one


ORBETELLO, Italy – Friday, the first day Italians were required to present a national health passport to access indoor restaurants, museums, gymnasiums, theaters and a wide range of social activities, Margherita Catenuto, 18, from Sicily , proudly displayed a bar code at the Capitoline Museum in Rome certifying that she was vaccinated.

“It’s like showing that you have a conscience,” Ms. Catenuto said as she entered. “You do it for yourself and you do it for others. It is very reasonable.

Similar measures to stem the coronavirus pandemic have sparked large protests in France and have bitterly divided Americans between cities that will need vaccine passes, like New York, and entire regions of the country that even consider them. masks as an affront to their rights. But the Italians especially welcomed their new Green Pass with wide acceptance and, after some compromises, a virtual political consensus.

After a long populist era that favored anti-establishment fervor and viral propaganda over pragmatism and expertise, Italians are suddenly enjoying a high season of rationality.

“To make things better, get yourself vaccinated and follow the rules,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Europe’s most established prime minister, told reporters on Friday before Parliament’s summer recess.

Signs outside theaters on Friday reminded patrons to bring their green passes – proof of vaccination, a negative test swab taken in recent days, or proof of a past viral infection – that they can download or print. Catering employees checked certificates as well as temperatures and reservations. Tourists can provide proof of vaccination with a vaccine accepted by the European Medicines Agency.

“Do you have a Green Pass,” a hostess at an Orbetello sushi restaurant asked Laura Novelli as she showed up for lunch with a friend. She did not, and she also did not have a negative swab test result or evidence that she had recovered from Covid. “I didn’t even think about it,” the 26-year-old waitress told the hostess, who pushed her away with a shrug.

The idea that Italy under Mr Draghi is doing reasonable things to help Italy emerge from the pandemic and recover has resulted in broad support for what is now Europe’s largest measure to combat the spread of the Delta variant.

A recent survey published in Italy’s biggest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, showed that 66% of Italians support the Green Pass, and populist leaders who once questioned vaccines have broadly endorsed the program.

“Having a reasonable leader helps, but I think Italians have been reasonable in this crisis from the start,” said Ferruccio De Bortoli, columnist and former editor of the newspaper. He added that “this goes against the myth of irrational Italians”.

On Thursday evening, the government announced that starting in September, the pass will also be required for teachers, principals and university students. Teachers who do not obtain the pass will not be allowed to enter the school. After five absences, teachers will stop receiving salaries.

Mr. Draghi called the return to learning at school a “fundamental goal”.

In September, the pass will also be required to board ferries and buses traveling between more than two regions and on planes and high-speed trains. People who enter restricted areas without the pass, and business owners who let them in, face a fine of up to $ 1,000, or over $ 1,180. A business that breaks the rule can be closed for one to ten days.

That didn’t stop the sushi restaurant hostess, who said the pass was wreaking havoc on reservations and business on day one, from offering to look away for two teenagers who had no certifications. They refused and returned to the streets.

“I love to travel and wherever you go you need this creepy pass,” said one of the teenagers, Giovanni Galatolo, 18. “I get vaccinated on Tuesday.

The government maintains that the pass will increase economic activity, including allowing normal life to resume. For example, the number of seats on the national high-speed train network will increase from 50% to 80%, which means more business travel and economic activity.

But it is also clearly intended to push Italians like Mr Galatolo to get vaccinated.

Mr. Draghi, whose government is made up of a large coalition of parties, has shown a flair for putting in his place populist politicians who traffic by sowing unreasonable doubts. This includes Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League’s nationalist party and once Italy’s most powerful politician, who fought for relevance under the outspoken Mr Draghi.

Mr Salvini defended an ambiguous position on the vaccine. One day he plunges back into the populism that made him Italy’s most popular politician, arguing that opponents of vaccinations must be heard, that vaccines are useless for young people and that the Green Pass should not be required to enter restaurants and bars. . The next day, he said he supported Mr. Draghi and his policy.

Last month, when he suggested that a larger Green Pass would deprive half of Italians “of their right to life”, Mr Draghi would have wanted nothing.

“The call not to get vaccinated is a call to die,” Draghi said in response to Salvini’s remarks. “You don’t get a vaccine, you get sick, you die.” Refusing to get vaccinated, he added, “would kill people.”

The next morning, Mr. Salvini was vaccinated.

Mr Salvini stated that he had already booked his vaccination and that he had done so not on the basis of what Mr Draghi had said but as “a free choice and not because someone gave it to me. had imposed ”.

But it is now clear who is pulling the strings, especially as the pro-business base of Mr. Salvini’s own party is backing Mr. Draghi in hopes of reviving the economy.

Mr. Draghi “obviously stole populism’s voice,” said Sergio Fabbrini, professor of politics and international relations and dean of the political science department at Luiss, a university in Rome.

The Green Pass is by no means a panacea for the pandemic, and the government still has to overcome major obstacles. Young Italians have been more resistant to vaccination, but some Italian regions have mobilized vaccination campaigns on their beaches, discos and bars. In Sicily, the authorities offered vaccines in ice cream parlors and pizzerias.

More troubling, especially given the virus’ terrible toll on older Italians during the first waves of the pandemic, is that around 11% of Italians over 60 are still not vaccinated.

Sporadic demonstrations by anti-vaccination activists, encouraged by the dissenting political campaigns of Five Star and the League, have erupted.

While the government considers that around 7-8% of Italians are strongly opposed to vaccines, it considers an equal percentage to be accessible, but they simply have not succeeded or do not see the need for it. The Green Pass, they argue, has already caused an increase in vaccination bookings, and the government is confident that wider use of the pass will result in even more vaccinations.

Ms Novelli, who was turned away from the sushi restaurant for not having a green pass, said she was not ideologically opposed to the vaccination, but hesitated for fear of missing work with the side effects of fever. She said she understood the purpose of the pass and that if it became necessary to work, “I will have to do it”, but said she would not get the vaccine just to eat in a. sushi restaurant.

“I did,” said her friend Laura Cretu, who had recently been vaccinated and added that she also needed it to go to college classes in September. “Without the Green Pass,” she said, “you can’t do anything.

Reporting was provided by Emma Bubola in Rome, Gaia Pianigiani in Siena and Elisabetta Povoledo in Pallanza, Italy.