Tourists caught short as Italy ushers in COVID-19 'green pass'

Rome, ItalyUpdated: Aug 06, 2021, 06:37 PM IST
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Visitors across Italy were being asked the question on Friday as new coronavirus rules for museums and indoor dining came into force -- with those answering 'no' left frustrated

"Do you have your green pass?" 

Visitors across Italy were being asked the question on Friday as new coronavirus rules for museums and indoor dining came into force -- with those answering 'no' left frustrated.

At the Vatican Museums, a number of tourists were turned away despite having pre-booked tickets, after failing to provide proof of a Covid-19 vaccine, previous infection or a negative coronavirus test.

"We were looking forward to it, so we are kind of disappointed. But it is what it is," said Tereza Poganyova, 20, on holiday with a friend from the Czech Republic. 

However, she admitted having received an email reminding her of the requirement, and most of the visitors lining up to see the Sistine Chapel on Friday morning were prepared.

Hugo Munoz, 48, from Texas, used his US vaccination card to gain entry and welcomed the new checks, even though they caused some longer queues.

"I know there are mixed feelings... but we did it back at home and to us at least it gives us a little bit of a peace of mind that we probably are more protected," he told AFP.

But tourists are not the only ones caught short. Millions of Italians are still not vaccinated and therefore those who have not recently recovered from coronavirus can only get a green pass by taking a test.

There have been pockets of protests, most recently on Thursday night, when thousands of people gathered in Turin's main plaza, Piazza Castello, in an event dubbed 'No Fear Day'. 

Most were without masks and some held signs saying "Freedom" and "State Discrimination".

'Respect the rules'

In restaurants in central Rome Friday, not everyone was asking for a green pass for diners wanting to sit inside, despite the risk of stiff fines.

Many establishments have concerns about how the pass will work in practice, particularly with tourists with tests or vaccination certificates in a different format than that recognised within the EU. 

And would it lead to discrimination? 

"Will I end up having to put everyone who is vaccinated inside, with all the non-vaccinated outside?" asked one waiter who asked not to be named.

On Thursday night, the government also agreed to make the green pass obligatory for teachers as well as passengers on domestic flights, ferries and long-distance trains and buses from September 1.

Ministers insist the measures are crucial to curbing rising coronavirus cases, while allowing businesses to stay open.

"I say to all Italians: vaccinate yourselves and respect the rules," Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters Friday ahead of parliament's summer break.

Italy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, recording more than 128,000 deaths, the highest in the European Union.

A successful vaccination campaign has helped turn the tide in recent months, with more than 62 percent of the population over the age of 12 now fully jabbed.

However, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant is causing concern, with another 7,200 cases reported on Thursday.