Italy is to bar unvaccinated people from popular social and sports activities, as governments across Europe scramble to tighten Covid-19 restrictions amid record-breaking numbers of infections in parts of the continent.
The Italian “super green pass” will take effect from 6 December and require people to prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid to access cinemas, theatres, gyms, nightclubs, ski lifts and stadiums, as well as to be served indoors at bars and restaurants.
Current rules in Italy and many other EU countries with health passes also allow people who provide proof of a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours to use recreational venues, a regime that has become known as 3G, but the Italian “super green pass” removes that third option.
The Netherlands and France are among those thought likely to also adopt a stricter so-called 2G regime within days. 3G refers to the German words geimpft (vaccinated), getestet (tested) and genesen (recovered); 2G is vaccinated or recovered.
Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, has been under pressure from regional governors to impose a stricter health mandate against people who have not been vaccinated. He said on Wednesday it was essential to mitigate the risk of coronavirus infections surging and preserve normality as his government tightened regulations against unvaccinated people by barring them from an array of social and recreational settings.
“We want to be very careful and also to preserve what we have achieved this year, to preserve this normality,” he said.
In a surprise move, people will also have to show proof of vaccination, recovering from Covid-19 or of a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours when using public transport such as buses or metro trains. The measure is already in place when travelling on long-distance trains and domestic flights. The government has also extended the obligatory vaccine requirement, already in place for health workers, to the police force, military and teachers.
Draghi said that while the coronavirus situation in Italy is currently under control, “outside of Italy, the situation is very serious, while ours is steadily worsening.” Italy registered 12,448 new infections on Wednesday, up from 10,047 on Tuesday, and 85 deaths.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, spoke on Wednesday of a “gloomy and worrying” rise in cases, and said tough measures could be announced within days despite four nights of rioting and more than 170 arrests over a partial lockdown imposed last week.
De Jonge declined to specify what the restrictions, likely to be announced on Friday, could entail, but Dutch media said they could include school closures and 2G curbs, allowing only those vaccinated or recovered from Covid to access bars and cafes.
Restrictions introduced on 13 November oblige Dutch bars, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets to close at 8pm, sports matches to be played behind closed doors, and limit domestic gatherings to four people.
France will announce new Covid containment measures on Thursday, a government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, said. While aiming to avoid “major curbs on public life”, the government has said stricter social distancing requirements and tougher health pass rules are inevitable.
“We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible,” Attal said. The president, Emmanuel Macron, has said the pass, which currently applies 3G rules, is a key reason why France is doing better than some of its neighbours.
Olaf Scholz, who is to replace Angela Merkel next month as Germany’s chancellor, called on Wednesday for vaccinations to be made compulsory for targeted groups, saying that fighting the pandemic would be his top priority. “Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions where vulnerable groups are cared for, we should make vaccination compulsory,” he told a news conference. Several German states have already imposed a strict 2G regime for access to entertainment and leisure venues.
The Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary all reported record daily infections on Wednesday as colder weather pushed people to gather indoors rather than on cafe terraces, providing a perfect breeding ground for the virus.
Italy introduced its green pass in August and made it mandatory for workplaces in October. The workplace mandate intensified protests across Italy, especially in the northern city of Trieste, where there has been a sharp rise in infections and hospital admissions in recent weeks. Calls for tighter rules have been led by Massimiliano Fedriga, the president of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region surrounding Trieste.
This month Fedriga, a politician with the far-right League, described the anti-vaccination and anti-green pass protests as “idiocy”. He said on Sunday the super green pass was not discriminatory and the only alternative would be another lockdown.
Umberto Lucangelo, the head of an intensive care unit at a hospital in Trieste, recently said 90% of Covid patients were unvaccinated and many had been involved in the protests.
The tougher rules have been supported by regional presidents from across the political spectrum. Stefano Bonaccini, the centre-left Democratic party president of Emilia-Romagna, told Ansa: “I think people who are vaccinated should have a preferential path in those places of social and cultural life, in particular, in order to prevent them from having to close.”
Giovanni Toti, the Forza Italia president of the Liguria region, said any further restrictions should apply to “people who have not had the vaccine, not to people who have done so correctly”.
As of Wednesday just over 84% of Italy’s population over the age of 12 were vaccinated.