Girls in face masks chatting and walking along the waterfront in Gaeta, Italy. Photo credit: Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Italy mandates COVID-19 health passes as schools open

A twist of events at the beginning of the 2021 school year as the pandemic alters the school program whilst new restrictions emerge.

The school calendar has faced numerous challenges globally since the COVID-19 breakout in 2020. From online learning to abrupt pandemic-related holidays, the 2021 fall appears to usher back conventional learning schemes.

Like all Italian public and private sector workers, the country’s elementary and high school students are now required to have COVID-19 health passes or green passes. However, children under 12 years, or the elementary and middle schoolers, are exempt from vaccinations due to COVID-19 regulations.  Because of this, the only remaining option left for students wishing to attend school is them taking the COVID test every 48 hours. That being the case, this option pans out to be quite hectic. 

As a result, a couple of students have been registered missing in the first school days. A consequence, if persistent, can result in the authorities being involved. 

For University students, the green pass remains an obligation for physical class appearances. Some courses at universities are exempt from this, thus privileged with the chance to sustain online studies. On the other hand, non-vaccinated students, as well as, vaccinated pupils face a risk of infections, which stirs thoughts on the government’s final solution for completely curbing the spread.

| Read: Italy halts all outdoor activity

Just as the rest of the other professionals, teachers and parents are engulfed with feelings of uncertainty on this subject matter. As many comply others hover on reluctance. During the first day of school, one of the parents commented on this saying, “I am all in for the mandatory green pass, it is great for security and also the chance to move on from this situation.”

Even as the green passes create room for security measures, there are mixed emotions considering the rising global shortage of school teachers.

Take, Giuseppe Pantaleo, professor of French studies at the Istituto Curie-Levi in ​​Collegno was refused entry into the school. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, he recollected, “they called the police to take me away from the school’s vicinity on two consecutive days because I did not have the green pass.” 

He continued by adding that he presented a certificate from a general practitioner who excused him from vaccination, but the school management did not consider it valid.

Another risk factor to the rise in global school shortages worsened by the pandemic are countless cases of canceled lessons. Added to education woes are students returning home earlier than expected because the chairs are empty

With mandatory health passes and vaccines required for all workers, parents and school staff question how orderly will the commencing of this school year be?

Italy still carries the reputation of being one of the strictest countries dealing with COVID-19. People strolling and hanging out in the trendy Pigneto neighbourhood in Rome, Italy. Photo credit: Gabriella Clare Marino

Mandatory Covid-19 health passes 

On September 16, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi met with his cabinet to establish restrictions following consultations with Trade Union Leaders. As a result of the meeting, green passes were pronounced mandatory for public and private sector workers. Italy has become the first European country to do so. Per contra, the passes have been made easily accessible.

They are available in both digital and paper formats. To add, they detail whether a person has been fully vaccinated, tested negative, or has recently recovered from the virus. 

Health Minister Roberto Speranza seconded the new rules saying, “the choice of the government is to invest as much as possible in the Green Pass to avoid closures and to safeguard the freedom.” 

| Watch: La Zona Rossa: Black, American and Quarantined in Italy

On the opposition side, Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration Lega (League) which is part of the Dragi Administration, objected to these claims unsupported by Ministers from his own party. He argued, “the position of the league is clear, we are for defending the health of citizens including in the workspace. But you cannot think of extending the green pass obligation to 60 million Italians.”

The decree also stated that from October 15 through the end of the year, any worker failing to present their health vaccine certificate to their employer will be suspended without pay for up to five days or be liable to fines up to €1,500, but will not be fired. 

Even though the rule is still inactive, there has been evidence of a vaccine rush. According to the latest Government reports, 77.69 percent of the Italian population over 12 years old is now fully vaccinated. Seemingly, this makes Italy somewhat of an international test on the mandatory green pass mandate.

. . . .

The green pass has also added pressure on parents’ pockets, buckling up with learning supplies that amount to €1,130, according to estimates by consumer rights group Codacons. The National Association of Agents and Publishing president Vincezo Calo said the prizes were unbelievable, “practically everything has increased in almost ten years, but not textbooks.” 

With such unforeseen implications, Italy has acted as an international pacesetter, seeing that it was one of the countries most affected by the spread of the virus. The “mandatory green-pass program” seems to push the citizens into vaccinations, the Government’s initial plan. Time will tell if other states will be consenting to this path. All in all, the Italian Government does not seem to back down anytime soon.

Nyawira Mithayo is a journalism graduate with an interest in community activism.

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