Vaccine bookings jump in Italy after COVID health pass made mandatory

·2 min read
Tourists required to show "Green Pass" in Rome

By Francesco Zecchini

ROME (Reuters) - Bookings for COVID-19 vaccinations jumped in Italy on Friday after the government made inoculation mandatory for all workers in some of the strictest anti-coronavirus measures adopted in the world.

The number of people making appointments more than doubled from the day before in the northeastern region of Veneto, while in Tuscany they almost tripled, according to provisional data.

In Italy's largest region Lombardy, daily bookings jumped to more than 17,000 on Thursday from some 9,500 a day earlier. Data for Friday was not immediately available.

Elsewhere, a steady stream of people headed into vaccination centres where bookings were no longer necessary.

"I have come because otherwise they won't let me work on the building site," said Henry Tuku, 30, a migrant entering a site offering free vaccines near Rome's central station.

As of Oct. 15, any worker who fails to show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test or recent recovery from infection will be automatically suspended without pay.

People who ignore the decree and go to work regardless will face a fine of between 600 to 1,500 euros ($705-$1,175). Firms that fail to ensure their staff comply with the rules will be fined between 400-1,000 euros.

"This is aimed at preventing a new wave of contagion and a new blockage for the Italian economy," said Vincenzo de Luca, governor of the southern region of Campania, centred on Naples.

"I am pleased. We have entered a period in which democracy is forging ahead on the basis of decisions, not chatter," he said in a message posted on Facebook.

Previously, Italy had made vaccines obligatory for health workers and subsequently said school staff must have a COVID-19 "Green Pass" to work.

Most parties have supported Prime Minister Mario Draghi's decision to extend the pass to all Italy's 23 million workers.

Some far-right groups promised to fight it, and opponents called for nationwide protests at the weekend, but it was not clear how many people would take to the streets. The last such appeal flopped last month when the Green Pass was made obligatory for high-speed trains.

Italy has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after Britain, with more than 130,200 people dying of the disease since the pandemic surfaced in early 2020.

Around 74% of its 60-million-strong population have had at least one COVID-19 shot and 68.6% are fully vaccinated, figures broadly in line with most other EU countries.

(Additional reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by David Gregorio)

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