Passenger without Italy’s Covid green pass faces prison after delaying train

A passenger who failed to show a valid Covid-19 'green pass' for travel and refused to get off an interregional train now faces a possible jail sentence for delaying a public service.

Authorities removed a train passenger for travelling without a valid green pass.
Authorities removed a train passenger for travelling without a valid green pass. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Italy’s health ministry on Monday introduced new rules aimed at preventing passengers without a valid health certificate from disrupting and delaying long-distance train services, after reports of police having to remove people who refused to show a Covid-19 health certificate, called a ‘green pass’ in Italy.

In one recent case, a high-speed Italo train service on the Reggio Calabria-Milan line had to stop in Rome after a passenger failed to produce a valid document and refused to get off.

UPDATE: Italy tightens Covid green pass rules on public transport

Instead of showing a green pass, which has been a requirement for travel on all interregional trains since September 1st, the woman instead showed a photo of the result of a home test kit, as well as a self-certification form.

“I won’t get off,” the passenger said when asked to produce a valid health document, newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.

Following a quarrel with the conductor, Italian police were alerted to the dispute and the train stopped in Rome where the argument continued, stopping the train from departing for almost half an hour

Officers explained that the picture printed on a sheet of paper did not prove that the test was hers. Nor did it prove when the swab was taken.

Green passes can be released based on the results of PCR or rapid antigen swab tests conducted at pharmacies or by other medical professionals, but not based on the results of a home test kit.

Police told the passenger the photo of her home test result couldn’t replace a green pass and asked her to get off the train, in line with Covid health pass regulations.

The rules state that passengers without a valid pass can be moved to another part of the train before being asked to get off at the next stop.

READ ALSO: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

An inspector checks passengers boarding a high-speed “Frecciarossa” train for their green pass on September 1st, when it first became compulsory on interregional trains. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

After eventually agreeing to disembark, the passenger was fined for breaching the green pass rules and was subsequently reported for interruption of a public service.

This crossed the line into criminal law, with the passenger now facing charges for causing a delay to the train, with penalties including a potential prison sentence of up to one year.

The passenger’s lawyers have lodged an appeal with the Regional Administrative Tribunal to challenge both the penalty and the law as a whole.

The passenger reportedly said she believes the green pass system is illegitimate “from a constitutional point of view” and in conflict with European regulations and treaties.

For the time being, the Administrative Court has closed the matter, stating that they cannot consider a case’s “constitutional compatibility”.

READ ALSO: Is Italy likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

The health ministry changed the Covid green pass rules on public transport on Monday in a bid to slow the recent sharp rise in infection rate before Christmas.

To help prevent such delays in future, train staff should now verify passengers’ health passes before boarding and not after during ticket inspections, as has been the practice so far.

The checks will reportedly be carried out “where possible”, including at major train stations with ticket barriers such as Rome Termini and Florence Santa Maria Novella.

The rules apply to long-distance and interregional train passengers, but not to those taking local services.

As well as those who fail to show a green pass, new rules state that railway police and local health authorities can stop any train on which passengers are found to “present symptoms attributable to the coronavirus” and the train company will need to “sanitise the train before putting it back into operation”.

Italy’s green pass is a requirement at workplaces, indoor restaurants and leisure venues as well as on long-distance public transport.

Only those who are vaccinated, recovered, or have tested negative, either with a PCR test or a rapid (antigenic) swab test can access it.

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‘Bank robber’ rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

Four people were arrested in Rome after a suspected would-be bank robber was rescued from a tunnel under a road, police said on Friday.

'Bank robber' rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

An Italian man had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a collapsed tunnel near the Vatican, suspected of being part of a gang burrowing its way to a nearby bank.

Firefighters spent eight hours digging him out from under a road in the west of Rome, before he was finally freed on Thursday evening and taken to hospital.

“Two people from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official and two, from Rome, for damage” to public property, a police spokesman told AFP.

The rescued man, one of the two Romans, remains in hospital, he said without giving an update on his condition.

“We are still investigating, we do not exclude that they are thieves, it is one of the theories,” he said.

For Italian newspapers, however, the motive was clear, with reports noting the tunnel was found near a bank ahead of the August 15th long weekend, when residents traditionally head out of town and much of Rome is left empty.

“The hole gang,” headlined newspapers Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, while La Stampa said: “They dig a tunnel to rob a bank, and one of them is buried underground.”

Other reports referred to the suspected burglar as l’uomo-talpa, or ‘mole man’.

An AFP reporter at the scene on Thursday saw the man brought out alive on a stretcher, after a day-long operation involving dozens of emergency service workers using mechanical diggers.

The tunnel began underneath an empty shop that had recently been rented.

“We all thought that the people there were renovating the place. So we had no suspicions and we did not hear noises either,” a resident, Michele, who lives in the same building told AFP.