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COVID-19 RULES

Covid super green pass rules mean ‘forced exile’, say Italy’s islanders

Unvaccinated residents on Italy's small islands risk being cast into "forced exile" by new coronavirus rules, a representative of local authorities warned Wednesday, calling for rules changes to help them.

People sit on a beach in Lampedusa, Italy.
New Covid rules threaten daily life for Italy's islanders, say local authorities. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Measures requiring proof of recent vaccination or recovery to use public transport come into effect on Monday as Italy battles rising Covid-19 infections.

But in a letter to the government, Francesco Del Deo, head of the National Association of Municipalities of Small Islands (ANCIM), pointed out that boats and planes are the only means of getting off and on the islands.

The new rules risk “condemning to forced exile residents who for different reasons are not vaccinated”, he warned.

ANCIM represents 35 municipalities covering 87 small islands with a combined population of around 240,000, Capri and Ischia among them.

It wants an exception to the new rules to allow unvaccinated residents to show a negative Covid test to take public transport if they have to travel for reasons of health, education or work.

The health issue is particularly important as medical facilities are often rudimentary or non-existent, with some islands served only by a doctor who visits for a few hours once or twice a week.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Del Deo, mayor of a municipality on Ischia, off the coast of Naples, told AFP.

While he backed vaccination, “in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected”.

One solution could be the creation of special areas in ferries for the unvaccinated who could show a negative test, to avoid potential complaints from other passengers, he suggested.

Italy was the European country first hit by the pandemic in early 2020 and still has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 138,000.

More than 86 percent of people over 12 are fully vaccinated, and Del Deo said rates on the little islands were comparable.

Despite the campaign, infection rates are rising sharply – as elsewhere in Europe, a trend fuelled by the new Omicron strain.

From Monday, the ‘super green pass’ requiring proof of recent vaccination or recovery from coronavirus will be required for most indoor public venues and on public transport.

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The ‘reinforced’ health certificate is available only to those who are vaccinated against or have recovered from the virus – as opposed to the basic green pass, attainable by testing negative for Covid every two to three days (depending on whether the test taken is molecular or rapid antigen).

Previously, such venues and services were accessible with the basic green pass.

The extended super green pass has already been made compulsory for access to almost all leisure, social or sporting activities in Italy and will be a requirement at even more places from January 10th, including all restaurants and bars and public transport.

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COVID-19 RULES

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.

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