Protests have erupted across Italy with thousands taking to the streets against the mandatory Green Pass which came into force today for all workers.
Police were out in force, schools closed early and embassies issued warnings of possible violence after ugly scenes at the protests in Rome over the weekend.
Workers blocked ports as they refused to follow the new rules which require them to show proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months.
No Green Pass protesters blocked the entrance in front of Genoa Port today as new laws came into effect requiring all workers to show their Covid status
The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months
Workers block port operations at the Giuseppe-Canepa seafront opposite the Etiopia gate in the port of Genoa as protests ground ports to a halt
The 23 million civil servants and employees in Italy must now present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to work
Dockers demonstrate against the Green Pass in the port of Trieste as all private and public workers are required to use the Green Pass
Italy has required it to access all sorts of indoor activities for weeks, including dining, visiting museums and theatres, and on long-distance trains.
But the addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in the former epicentre of the outbreak, where vaccination rates are among the highest in Europe and where even the latest Delta variant-fuelled resurgence has been kept largely under control.
‘Today they are stepping on our constitution,’ said an anti-vaccine protester, Loris Mazzarato. ‘I say NO to this discrimination.’
He was among the hundreds of demonstrators in Trieste, where protests by port workers refusing to show a Green Pass to get to work threatened to affect commercial activities, though early reports suggested the ports were operational.
Protesters shouted ‘Liberta’ (Freedom) in a largely peaceful demonstration in Florence.
Italy has required it to access all sorts of indoor activities for weeks, including dining, visiting museums and theatres, and on long-distance trains
People take part in the ‘No Green Pass’ demonstration at the Circo Massimo in Rome as protests broke out across Italy today
The addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in the former epicentre of the outbreak
Women hand flowers to police officers during a protest against the so-called Green Pass at Circo Massimo in Rome
Implementation of the new requirement varies.
Electronic scanners that can read mobile phone QR codes with the Green Pass were set up at bigger places of employment, such as the office of Italian Premier Mario Draghi and the headquarters of state railway company Trenitalia.
But at smaller places of work, from restaurants to tennis clubs, employers and managers had to download an app that can scan the codes.
While it was unclear how strictly Italy would enforce the requirement, the fear of spot checks drove employers to comply, at least initially.
Sanctions for employers who fail to check employees range from 400 to 1,000 euros – up to £840.
A worker who fails to show a Green Pass at work is considered to be absent without justification. If the worker shows up anyway without a valid Green Pass, he or she could face fines from 600 euros to 1,500 euros.
Vaccination rates are among the highest in Europe and where even the latest Delta variant-fuelled resurgence has been kept largely under control
In Trieste (pictured) protests by port workers refusing to show a Green Pass to get to work threatened to affect commercial activities
People gather and stage a No Green Pass protest in Turin as the new laws came into force today but were met with backlash
But there were some anomalies. Supermarket cashiers and hairdressers have to have a Green Pass to work, but their clients do not and need only to wear a mask indoors.
The aim of the requirement is to encourage even higher vaccination rates in a country that has kept Covid-19 largely under control, reporting around 67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and a daily death toll that has not exceeded 70 for months.
In Italy, 80 per cent of the population over age 12 has already been fully vaccinated.
But for those people who cannot or will not get their shots, the expanded pass requirement imposes a burden of getting tested every 48 hours just to be able to go to work, though people with a proven medical condition that prevents them being vaccinated are exempt.
Not even the Vatican was spared from the Green Pass rules. Three Swiss Guards quit and another three were suspended after they refused to get vaccinated before the Vatican’s Green Pass requirement went into effect.
Up to three million workers are estimated to be unvaccinated – and most will only be able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type
Delays were reported at the northwestern port of Genoa, where about 300 people blocked an entrance (pictured)
No Green Pass protesters block the road during the protest in front of Genoa Port
University students protest against the Green pass in Milan holding a banner which reads ‘No Green Pass in the university… and anywhere else’
Delays were reported at the northwestern port of Genoa, where about 300 people blocked an entrance, while pockets of protests broke out across Italy ahead of bigger demonstrations called for later in the day.
Up to three million workers are estimated to be unvaccinated – and most will only be able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type.
Ivano Russo, director general of trade group Confetra, told AFP that out of a total of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers and warehouse staff employed by members of his lobby, ’25 to 30 percent’ do not have Covid certificates.
Dock workers in Trieste have threatened to go on strike indefinitely, despite being offered free Covid tests.
‘Citizens not puppets’ and ‘No Green Pass, No Discrimination’ read some of the placards in the crowd gathered Friday.
Dock workers in Trieste have threatened to go on strike indefinitely in protest, despite being offered free Covid tests
A demonstrator holds a banner reading ‘Green Pass and state of emergency equals dictatorship’ as the move was met with strong protests
Employees gather outside the gates of the harbour terminal Psa of Genoa Pra since early morning in order to peacefully protest against the new laws
In Genoa, the small blockade was peaceful early Friday, according to an AFP journalist, although some truck drivers reported delays.
‘Today it’s really hard to unload,’ Marco, a 50-year-old driver, told the ANSA news agency.
‘I have to unload, I have to be able to work. I took the vaccine to get the Green Pass because I have to work.’
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government says the pass will help prevent further lockdowns in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Business lobby Confindustria has been among the staunchest backers of the measure, which follows a similar initiative adopted in Greece last month, saying it would ‘create workplaces that are as safe as possible’.
Introduced in August, initially for museums and indoor dining, it has also had the effect of boosting vaccinations, and rates of infection currently remain low.
Employees have their certification checked as Italy’s new ‘Green Pass’ vaccination requirement for employees to enter their offices became mandatory
Ahead of the extension of the Green Pass to workplaces, more than 560,000 certificates were downloaded on Wednesday and around 860,000 Thursday, according to government data
Trade unions initially called for compulsory vaccinations to avoid discrimination between those who were and were not jabbed
The eurozone’s third largest economy is expected to record almost six percent growth this year after a devastating Covid-induced recession.
Ahead of the extension of the Green Pass to workplaces, more than 560,000 certificates were downloaded on Wednesday and around 860,000 Thursday, according to government data.
However, there are concerns there is not enough capacity for everyone who is not vaccinated to have regular Covid tests, raising the prospect of mass absenteeism from work.
Employers can be fined 400 to 1,000 euros for not checking if their staff comply with the rules.
Trade unions initially called for compulsory vaccinations to avoid discrimination between those who were and were not jabbed.
They are now pushing for free tests, saying staff should not have to pay to go to work, although ministers so far seem unlikely to agree.
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