JAKARTA - The Italian government on Thursday approved some of the strictest anti-COVID measures in the world, requiring all workers to show proof of vaccinations, negative tests, or recent recovery from infection.
The new rules will come into effect on October 15 in the latest effort by the Government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, to persuade people to get injections and blunt transmission in one of the countries worst hit by the virus.
Any worker who fails to present a valid health certificate will be suspended without pay, but cannot be fired, ministers told reporters after the cabinet approved the measure.
People who ignore the decision and go to work regardless will face a fine of between 600 and 1,500 euros, while sanctions for employers range from 400-1000 euros.
"Nothing like this has ever been done in Europe. We put ourselves on the international front line," said Minister of Public Administration Renato Brunetta, citing Reuters on Friday, September 17.
He added that the government expects the announcement of the latest regulation to have a real effect, before it actually takes effect within a month.
While several EU countries have ordered their health workers to get the vaccine, none has made the so-called 'Green Pass' mandatory for all workers, making Italy the first test case for Europe.
The pass was originally designed to make traveling around Europe easier, but Italy is among a group of countries that are quickly also making it a requirement for those looking to access places like museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants.
PM Draghi, who was not present at Thursday's news conference, previously faced opposition to the extension of the Green Pass from far-right leader Matteo Salvini, one of the main stakeholders in his government. However, the Salvini League party was divided on this issue and the cabinet finally approved the decision unanimously.
There have been sporadic protests across the country in recent weeks against mounting pressure to get vaccinated, but most political parties as well as major employers' federations have backed the move, hoping it will prevent further lockdowns.
Union leaders, meanwhile, have been more lukewarm, saying tests should be given free of charge to workers who refuse to be vaccinated, allowing them to keep working.
The government rejected this request, but said the price of the tests would be capped at 15 euros for work purposes, well below current costs.
To note, Italy has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after the UK, with more than 130,000 people dying from the disease since the pandemic emerged in early 2020.
About 74 percent of its 60 million population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While those who are fully vaccinated make up 68 percent, a figure that is broadly in line with most other EU countries.
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