The Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, has urged all Italians to get Covid-19 jabs after his government approved restrictions on unvaccinated citizens as it scrambles to contain a resurgence of infections.
Draghi told a press conference on Thursday that the country needed to act quickly to avoid the kind of infection levels that are being seen in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, as well as to protect the economy.
From 5 August, entry to stadiums, museums, theatres, cinemas, exhibition centres, swimming pools and gyms will only be allowed upon presentation of a “green pass”.
The pass, which is an extension of the EU’s digital Covid certificate, will also be required in order to be served indoors at restaurants.
Nightclubs will remain closed, while a proposal to make the pass obligatory for travelling within the country by train, plane or long-distance bus is expected to be re-evaluated in September.
Draghi said Italy’s economy had been improving alongside an accelerated vaccine programme that has led to a significant fall in the number of Covid-related deaths and hospitalisations since the country started easing lockdown restrictions in late April.
“But the Delta variant is threatening. It spreads much more quickly than other variants,” he said. “I invite all Italians to get vaccinated and to do so straight away. Without vaccinations, we’d have to close everything again.”
For those who have received at least one vaccine dose, the green pass will be valid from 14 days after their second dose and will last for nine months. The pass will also be available to anyone who presents proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours before accessing any of the activities under restriction, and to those who have recovered from Covid-19.
On Thursday, Italy registered 5,057 new coronavirus infections, mostly driven by the Delta variant, compared with 4,259 the day before. There were 15 more Covid-related deaths, bringing the total to 127,920 – the highest death toll in Europe after the UK.
Celebrations after Italy’s victory in the Euro 2020 football championship are believed to have contributed to the recent surge in infections, particularly in Rome, where cases have increased fivefold since 11 July.
As of Thursday, 52.83% of the population have been fully vaccinated. However, bookings for jabs in recent weeks have slowed, due either to young people delaying their vaccine until after the summer holidays or those who are decided against vaccination.
Italy has a small but vociferous anti-vaccination movement, which has held several protests in recent months against the green pass initiative.
There has been opposition to the scheme from far-right parties. Giorgia Meloni, who leads the opposition Brothers of Italy, said on Thursday that it would “kill the tourism season”.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega, a far-right party and key partner in Draghi’s administration, said earlier this week that a green pass is “fine for stadiums, but not for eating a pizza”.
The government is also expected to reintroduce the tiered, colour-coded system of restrictions for Italy’s 20 regions, although decisions will be made based on the number of people hospitalised or in intensive care with Covid-19 per region rather than upon the number of infections.
Italy’s state of emergency, which gives greater powers to central government – for example, to impose a lockdown – has been extended until the end of the year.