Protests erupted around Italy on Friday as the country’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, one of the strictest in the world, took effect.
Italy’s so-called “Green Pass” mandate took effect on Friday, meaning that workers must show proof that they are either fully vaccinated, tested negative, or recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months.
A Green Pass was already required in Italy to get into many indoor venues such as restaurants, museums, theaters, and some trains.
Now, both employers and workers face fines if they fail to enforce or comply with the mandate. Employers who fail to enforce the requirement may be fined 400 to 1,000 euros, and an employee who does not produce a Green Pass at work may be fined 600 to 1,500 euros, and will also be considered absent from work without approval.
The Green Pass program does allow for medical exemptions for people who cannot get the vaccine due to a proven medical condition, but those without an exemption must get tested for COVID-19 every 48 hours in order to be able to go to work. Workers must pay for the tests, which cost more than $17, themselves unless their employer is providing free testing since the government has not made testing free to all.
Two large protests occurred at two of Italy’s major ports, Trieste and Genoa, with workers shouting “No green pass” and “Freedom.”
Those protests and others in Rome and Milan were reportedly peaceful.
In Italy, 85% of people over the age of 12 have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. In the U.S., 77% of people 12 and older have received at least one vaccine shot.
Last weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to the Vatican, during which she visited Pope Francis, was disrupted by protests against vaccine mandates.
Pelosi had to be extracted from St. Patrick’s Church, where she was attending Mass, after about 10,000 Italians protested outside the church over the country’s new mandate. That protest turned violent, and at least a dozen protesters were arrested.
Some Italian lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the vaccine mandate on Friday as well.
Davide Barillari, a councilor from Rome’s Lazio region who is unvaccinated, “occupied” his office the night before the Green Pass mandate took effect, bypassing the requirement to show a Green Pass the next day.
“Oct. 15, 2021: History books will remember this day as the day of shame,” Barillari said in a video he posted on Facebook from his office.
“I am waiting for the police to tell me I can no longer stay in my office and work,” he said.
Last month, President Biden announced plans that companies with 100 or more employees must require all workers to get vaccinated or mandate that they get tested once a week. The president also said all federal workers must receive a coronavirus vaccine or face disciplinary action.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said.