Italy is moving towards barring unvaccinated people from popular social and sports activities, as governments across Europe scramble to tighten Covid-19 restrictions amid record-breaking numbers of infections in parts of the continent.
The Italian “super green pass” is expected to take effect over the next week and would require people to prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid to access cinemas, theatres, gyms, nightclubs, ski lifts and stadiums, as well as to be served indoors at bars and restaurants.
Current rules in Italy and many other EU countries with health passes also allow people who provide proof of a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours to also use those venues, a regime known as 3G. The Netherlands and France are among those thought likely to also adopt the stricter so-called 2G regime within days.
3G refers to the German words geimpft (vaccinated), getestet (tested) and genesen (recovered).
Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, has been under pressure from regional governors to impose a stricter health mandate against people who have not been vaccinated. He is meeting cabinet ministers on Wednesday afternoon to give the decree the final nod, according to reports in the Italian press.
Draghi is also reported to be contemplating making the Covid vaccine obligatory for police and teachers.
It is unclear if the new pass would be required across Italy or only in regions with high infections and where hospitals are under strain.
Warning of a “gloomy and worrying” rise in cases, the Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, said on Wednesday tough measures could be announced within days despite four nights of rioting and more than 170 arrests over a partial lockdown imposed last week.
De Jonge declined to specify what the restrictions, likely to be announced on Friday, may entail, but Dutch media said they could include school closures and 2G curbs allowing only those vaccinated or recovered from Covid to access bars and cafes.
Restrictions introduced on 13 November oblige Dutch bars, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets to close at 8pm, sports matches to be played behind closed doors, and limit domestic gatherings to four people.
France will announce new Covid containment measures on Thursday, said the government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal. While aiming to avoid “major curbs on public life”, the government has said stricter social distancing requirements and tougher health pass rules are inevitable.
“We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible,” Attal said. President Emmanuel Macron has said the pass, which currently applies 3G rules, is a key reason why France is doing better than some of its neighbours.
The government is also expected to follow the advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU’s public health agency, which on Wednesday recommended a third booster dose of the vaccine should be extended to everyone over the age of 40.
Olaf Scholz, who is expected to replace Angela Merkel next month as Germany’s chancellor, called on Wednesday for vaccinations to be made compulsory for targeted groups, saying that fighting the pandemic would be his top priority.
“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions where vulnerable groups are cared for, we should make vaccination compulsory,” he told a news conference. Several German states have already imposed a strict 2G regime for access to entertainment and leisure venues.
The Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary all reported record daily infections on Wednesday as colder weather pushes people to gather indoors rather than on cafe terraces, providing a perfect breeding ground for the virus.
Italy introduced its green pass in August and made it mandatory for workplaces in October. It is also required for boarding long-distance trains and domestic flights. Under the new measure, unvaccinated people will still be able to travel and access their workplace with proof of a negative test.
The workplace mandate intensified protests across the country, especially in the northern city of Trieste, where there has been a sharp rise in infections and hospitalisations in recent weeks. Calls for tighter rules have been led by Massimiliano Fedriga, the president of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the region surrounding Trieste.
This month Fedriga, a politician with the far-right League, described the anti-vaccination and anti-green pass protests as “idiocy”. He said on Sunday the super green pass was not discriminatory and the only alternative would be another lockdown.
Umberto Lucangelo, the head of an intensive care unit at a hospital in Trieste, recently said 90% of Covid patients were unvaccinated and many had been involved in the protests.
The tougher rules have been supported by regional presidents from across the political spectrum. Stefano Bonaccini, the centre-left Democratic party president of Emilia-Romagna, told Ansa: “I think people who are vaccinated should have a preferential path in those places of social and cultural life, in particular, in order to prevent them from having to close.”
Giovanni Toti, the Forza Italia president of the Liguria region, said any further restrictions should apply to “people who have not had the vaccine, not to people who have done so correctly.”
As of Wednesday morning just over 84% of Italy’s population over the age of 12 were vaccinated. Italy registered 10,047 new infections on Tuesday and 83 fatalities, bringing the total death toll to 133,330, the highest in Europe after the UK.
The number of admissions into intensive care units across the country increased by six to 560 on Tuesday, while general hospitalisations rose by 90 to 4,597.