ROME (AP) — The Italian government vowed to crack down on demonstrators threatening to block train tracks throughout the country on Wednesday as a rule requiring COVID-19 tests or vaccines takes effect for long-distance domestic public transport.
In a bid to rein in transmission of infections now that many have returned from summer holidays, domestic travelers in Italy must now show a so-called “Green Pass.” This certifies that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine more than 15 days ago, have tested negative in the past 48 hours or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months.
The rule, announced weeks ago, applies to domestic flights, train travel between regions and sea travel. Some ferries are exempt, notably those serving many tiny islands which have no other connections to the mainland, and those used by commuters between Sicily and and the southern tip of the mainland in Calabria.
Local buses, trams and metros are exempt from the rule, which was announced by Premier Mario Draghi’s government when daily case loads started steadily rising as the delta variant of the virus became prevalent in Italy.
Earlier this summer, a “Green Pass” requirement began for those wanting to dine indoors, access gyms or attend crowded venues like concerts.
On the eve of the transport rule’s taking effect, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese vowed zero tolerance against any rail track protests or other violence. Several recent protests against the “Green Pass” requirement, including in Rome and Milan, turned violent, with police having to rescue a state TV journalist after a protester started yanking her by her hair and a newspaper reporter was punched repeatedly in the face. Ministers and doctors have received threats.
Lamorgese voiced “the strictest condemnation of the attacks launched with unacceptable tones on social networks against members of the government, politicians, doctors and journalists over the ‘Green Pass’ and containment measures against the spread of COVID-19.”
Police are investigating the incidents.
“No illegal acts will be permitted in protest initiatives at train stations” billed by organizers for Wednesday, Lamorgese said.
Militants of an extreme-right group, New Force, as well as some members of extreme-left organizations have participated in the rallies.
So far, some 70% of Italy’s residents 12 years or older have been fully vaccinated. But experts have voiced concern that many people in the 50-69 age group haven’t received vaccines nor signed up for them.