Italy reports rise in Covid vaccine uptake ahead of green pass expansion

About 400,000 first jabs have been administered since last week, according to data presented by Italy’s coronavirus emergency commissioner on Friday.

The number of first doses administered on Thursday was 73,296, an increase of around 34% compared to the beginning of the week, the figures published by the office of Emergency Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo showed.

Until this week, the number of first jabs had been declining steadily since early August. 

More than 86 percent of Italians over the age of 12 have now received at least one vaccine dose and 80 percent are fully immunised, according to the latest official figures.

However, almost 8 million eligible people in Italy are still unvaccinated.

Among them, up to five million adults of working age in Italy were estimated to remain unvaccinated as of Friday, when a new law came into force making it mandatory for all employees in both the public and private sector to show a health certificate or ‘green pass’.

The Italian government expanded the health pass rules to all workplaces in order “make these places safer and make our vaccination campaign stronger,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said when announcing the new rule in September.

READ ALSO: How Italy is enforcing the new workplace green pass rules from Friday

The document is available to those who are vaccinated, have recently recovered from Covid-19 or can show a negative test result.

Those who refuse to be vaccinated most will only be able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type.

While there the number of green passes downloaded spiked to amost 900,000 on Thursday, data analysis by newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore showed that the majority were generated from negative test results.

‘Green passes generated day by day’: Health ministry data shows the number of passes from vaccinations, recovery and testing. Graph: Il Sole 24 Ore.

Employees who are unable to receive a coronavirus vaccine due to a certified medical condition are exempt from the requirement to produce a green pass at work.

While some workplaces are offering to cover the cost of testing for employees, the Italian state has not funded coronavirus swabs so far and it looks unlikely that the government will give in to calls for it to do so now.

The pass requirement has already been in place for school and university employees and care home workers since September, and a vaccine mandate has been in place since April for anyone working in healthcare, including in pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

READ ALSO: How long will Italy keep the Covid green pass requirement in place?

The certificate has also been required since August 6th to enter most cultural, entertainment and leisure venues in the country.

The expansion of the pass to workplaces was supported by around 55 percent of the population, according to one survey.

Protests were organised around Italy against the measure, with several thousand people attending the largest demonstrations in Trieste and Bologna on Friday and more events planned for Saturday.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government has defended the green pass system as necessary for avoiding further lockdowns or closures in Italy, which suffered a high Covid death toll and damaging economic recession during 2020.

Health experts meanwhile have credited the system with helping to keep infection and hospitalisation rates down.

Friday’s health ministry data showed that the weekly incidence rate of new confirmed Covid cases continues to decline.

The rate fell again to 29 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 34 per 100,000 inhabitants the previous week.

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