Italy will require its residents to show a health pass to go to work, the government announced Thursday. It is the first country in Europe to require coronavirus vaccination certificates so widely.
“It’s an extraordinary endeavor,” Italy’s public administration minister, Renato Brunetta, said Thursday night. “It’s all the human capital in the country.”
Starting in mid-October, a requirement that already applies to some essential workers will expand to cover anyone working in factories, public offices, shops, restaurants and other settings. That is 23 million people, Mr. Brunetta said.
Individuals will have to be able to show that they have received at least one dose of vaccine, or have recently recovered from Covid-19, or else take a swab virus test every two days. Those who test positive must stay home on sick leave. Employers will be in charge of checking certificates, and workers who do not comply with the health pass requirement can be suspended from their jobs and fined up to 1,500 euros ($1,760).
Earlier this year, Italy was the first country in Europe to make vaccination compulsory for health care workers. That measure was extended last week to cover anyone working in a hospital, nursing home or school, all university students, and all adults who enter school buildings.
After the government made health certificates compulsory for teachers over the summer, the proportion who were vaccinated increased substantially, government statistics show.
Italian officials have set a goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of the eligible population by the end of September. Scientists differ on whether that proportion will be high enough to check the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which is predominant now in Italy.
Almost 75 percent of Italians 12 and older have already received at least one dose of vaccine and at least 65 percent are fully vaccinated. But there are still 3 million people over 50 who are not protected yet, a figure that might undermine the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign as autumn approaches.
The health minister, Roberto Speranza, said on Thursday that the new policy was meant to make workplaces safer and to get more Italians vaccinated. “We are sure it will help us even more to push this vaccination campaign,” Mr. Speranza said.
French authorities plan to apply similar rules for essential and hospital workers. France’s health minister, Olivier Veran, said on Thursday that 3,000 health workers in the country had been suspended from their jobs for failing to comply with a vaccine requirement. France made vaccinations mandatory for nearly three million essential workers on Wednesday.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
Since taking power in February, Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, has stepped up the country’s vaccination campaign, making it one of the government’s top priorities and pushing all Italians to get inoculated.
The nationalist League party — which is part of Italy’s broad coalition government — opposed the extension of the vaccine certificate requirement, but found little popular backing. A few anti-vaccine activists were arrested recently and accused of plotting violent protests. But by and large, Italians have embraced the health pass.
Mr. Draghi said earlier this month that he was considering making vaccinations compulsory for everyone. The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for use in Italy.
In the United States, after the Food and Drug Administration gave its first full approval to a coronavirus vaccine — the one from Pfizer BioNTech— for people 16 and older, a number of public agencies and private employers moved to make vaccination mandatory.
In Italy, health certificates showing immunity or a recent negative test are already required to enter cinemas, theaters and museums, to dine indoors at restaurants, or to travel on high-speed trains or airplanes.