Italy makes COVID health pass mandatory for all workers

By Crispian Balmer and Giuseppe Fonte

ROME (Reuters) -The Italian government approved on Thursday some of the strictest anti-COVID measures in the world, making it obligatory for all workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.

The new rules will come into force on Oct. 15 in the latest effort by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition to persuade people to get inoculated and blunt contagion in one of the countries worst-hit by the virus.

Any worker who fails to present a valid health certificate will be suspended on no pay, but cannot be sacked, according to a draft of the decree seen by Reuters. The full details are due to be published later in the day.

People who ignore the decree and go to work regardless will face a fine of between 600 to 1,500 euros ($705-$1,175).

While some European Union states have ordered their health workers to get vaccines, none have made the Green Pass mandatory for all employees, making Italy a test case for the continent.

The pass was originally conceived to ease travel around Europe, but Italy was among a group of countries that swiftly also made it a requirement for those wanting to access venues such as museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants.

There have been sporadic protests in Italy in recent weeks against the growing pressure to get a jab, but most political parties as well as the main employers’ federation have backed the move, hoping it will prevent further economic lockdowns.

Union leaders have been more lukewarm, saying tests should be given freely to workers who refuse to be vaccinated, enabling them to remain on the job.

Officials say that would encourage people to continue shunning vaccines. However, a government source said the cabinet would keep a firm lid on prices for tests, imposing a maximum fee of 15 euros for adults.


Italy has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after Britain, with more than 130,000 people dying of the disease since the pandemic surfaced in early 2020.

Around 74% of its 60-million-strong population have had at least one COVID-19 shot and 68% are fully vaccinated, figures broadly in line with most other EU countries.

Underscoring the importance of jabs, Italy’s health foundation Gimbe said in a report on Thursday that almost all COVID-19 sufferers currently in hospital were unvaccinated.

The report said vaccines had helped reduce deaths in Italy by 96.3%, hospitalizations by 93.4% and intensive care admissions by 95.7%.

Italy in March ordered health workers to get vaccinated or face suspension. As of today, 728 doctors have been suspended, the doctors’ federation said on Thursday. It was not immediately clear how many nurses or carers had refused to comply.

A similar measure in France came into force on Wednesday. Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday that around 3,000 health workers had been suspended for their failure to get vaccinated.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Gavin Jones)

New York becomes first U.S. city to mandate COVID vaccines to enter restaurants, gyms

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the highly contagious Delta variant.

Unlike the surges last year and in January, highly effective vaccines are now widely available against the virus that has killed over 600,000 people in the United States, lessening the need to close businesses and for people to stay home.

The federal government and several states have already required public employees to get vaccinated as have some hospitals and universities. Meatpacker Tyson Foods on Tuesday became one of the largest private employers to require all workers be immunized.

New York City’s policy requires proof of at least one dose and will be enforced starting Sept. 13. Like past policies over masks and stay-at-home orders, the plan will likely meet resistance. In France, the requirement of a nationwide health passport proving vaccination has resulted in police using tear gas to disperse protesters.

“It is time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life,” de Blasio told a news conference.

About 60% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. But certain areas, largely poor communities and communities of color, have lower vaccination rates.


The city’s announcement comes as cases surge nationwide with Florida and Louisiana emerging as major virus hot spots where hospitals are once again straining with the influx of COVID patients.

Florida and Louisiana are both reporting record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, as one doctor warned of the “darkest days” yet.

More than 11,300 patients were hospitalized in Florida as of Tuesday, with COVID patients filling 22% of the state’s hospital beds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In highly vaccinated Vermont, 0.4% of its hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Louisiana was also dealing with one of the worst outbreaks in the nation, prompting Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to order residents to wear masks again indoors.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have nearly quadrupled in the last four weeks to 1,096 on Monday, the department of public health said. The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus also climbed to 6.2%, up from 1.3% a month ago, according to department data.

To fight the spread in California, political leaders in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties reinstated mandatory indoor mask orders in public places as of midnight Tuesday morning. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, late last month mandated all state employees to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has taken the opposite stance. He issued an executive order last week barring schools from requiring face coverings, saying parents should make that decision for their children.

The Sunshine State claimed another grim record with the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations — 138 as of Tuesday, more than those recorded in Texas despite the much larger population of the latter.

DeSantis doubled down during a press conference on Tuesday, defending the state’s approach.

“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to have schools open. We’re protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We’re protecting people’s small businesses.”

In Arkansas, another state were hospitalizations for COVID-19 have spiked, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson said he will ask state legislators on Wednesday to provide an exception to a law that prohibits state and local government, including school boards, from mandating people to wear masks.

The private sector, including many large U.S. companies, have also taken some steps in response to the Delta variant threat.

Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union said on Tuesday they will reinstate requirements to wear masks at all U.S. plants, offices and warehouses beginning on Wednesday but are not requiring workers to be vaccinated.

Big Tech companies like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook have said all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

California launches digital COVID-19 vaccine pass but won’t require it

By Paresh Dave

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – California officials on Friday unveiled a website to access a digital copy of COVID-19 immunization records, though they stressed the U.S. state would not make it mandatory to carry the vaccine credentials.

Businesses will be able to verify digital “vaccine cards” by scanning a QR code on them using an app expected to launch this month. The nearly 20 million immunized Californians can access their data at

“This is no different from someone’s vaccine records,” said California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan. “It’s an optional tool to use.”

California opened up from COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, with masks, social distancing and capacity limits no longer required at most venues for those who are vaccinated. But businesses are largely operating on the honor system and not “carding” people.

Other states have barred proof of vaccination as an entry requirement at shops and offices, calling such restrictions an intrusion on civil liberties including privacy.

California’s technology department developed the new website using technology known as Smart Health Cards, which originated at Boston Children’s Hospital. Walmart Inc this week also adopted Smart to enable people who got vaccinated at its stores to have an e-pass.

The approach contrasts with New York state, which paid IBM to develop a vaccine records app called Excelsior Pass as well as companion app for verifying passes. Over a million people had downloaded their records onto New York’s app, but few businesses have required it for entry.

California’s Los Angeles County has offered digital COVID-19 vaccine records for months through startup Healthvana. Millions of users have taken advantage, said Healthvana Chief Executive Ramin Bastani.

Users may experience glitches with California’s new systems, because names, birthdates or contact information could have been entered incorrectly at time of immunization.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio)

Explainer: California reopens, mostly, on Tuesday

By Jane Lanhee Lee

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – California is opening up from COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, but tech companies and other offices are not changing as fast as Disneyland, gyms and stores.

Here is what is changing for California offices, and what is not.


Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to reopen the state on June 15, a decision ending physical distancing, mask requirements and capacity limits for restaurants, stores and other businesses that cater to consumers.

The state health department is requiring the continued wearing of masks in a few places, such as public transit and healthcare settings. Indoor concerts and events with more than 5,000 attendees will be required to confirm proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 results.


Workplace rules are dictated by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, which has debated keeping restrictions in place longer than the governor. Under the newest proposal, which will be voted on June 17, fully vaccinated office workers will not need to wear a mask in normal circumstances. However, businesses would have to confirm a person has been vaccinated before taking off a mask in an office, and some businesses have been reluctant to ask.


Tech companies in Silicon Valley, which were among the first to go fully remote during the pandemic, are treading carefully. Many are waiting until after the Labor Day holiday, on Sept. 7, or even until 2022, to reopen offices fully.

While some like Twitter Inc have given employees the option to never return to the office, others like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc are allowing some employees to go remote permanently while setting minimum requirements for in-office work by many employees.

Apple is requiring workers return to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from early September.

Many companies are also giving on-site employees the option to work remotely for several weeks a year.

Collaboration-app firm Slack Technology Inc’s latest survey released on Tuesday showed 93% of about 10,000 workers surveyed said they want flexibility in when they work.

Slack executive Brian Elliott said many employees want a set time during the day to collaborate but the ability to work other hours on their own terms. The survey also showed 21% were likely to jump to a new company in the next year and over half are looking, making flexibility a more important component for attracting or retaining employees.


Businesses such as restaurants can require vaccine verification or negative COVID-19 tests. Newsom said on Monday the state later this week would be announcing more about a digital version of the vaccine card issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

San Francisco’s first major conference in reopened California will be Dreamforce, an annual event by sales software company Salesforce.Com Inc, which drew over 171,000 registered attendees in 2019.

The conference this year, which will be both virtual and in person, is scheduled for Sept. 21-23, in cities including San Francisco, New York, Paris and London. Salesforce said those attending in person will be required to be fully vaccinated, in line with state regulations.

(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave; Editing by Leslie Adler and Bill Berkrot)