‘Green pass’ and no masks: How Italy is planning to reopen nightclubs this summer

As Italy continues to ease its Covid-19 restrictions, the government made plans on Tuesday to address the question of restarting nightlife.

'Green pass' and no masks: How Italy is planning to reopen nightclubs this summer
Photo by Antoine Julien on Unsplash

With seven regions now in the ‘white’ zone, and most remaining Covid-19 restrictions soon to be relaxed elsewhere, reopening discos and nightclubs is now on the government’s agenda.

These are set to be the last venues allowed to reopen under Italy’s roadmap, and as summer begins the government has not yet given a date or outlined the rules for restarting.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s ‘green pass’ for travel and how do you get it?

Italian health ministry officials are set to meet with the industry’s union (SILB, sindacato italiano dei locali da ballo) on Tuesday, news agency Adnkronos reports.

“We are ready to cooperate to reopen discos and dance clubs in complete safety,” Maurizio Pasca, the national president of Silb, told the news outlet.

This could mean requiring members of the public to show a so-called ‘green pass‘ health document to access the venues according to the Union president.

“We will ask for the reopening with the green pass… In short, we are ready to create ‘safety bubbles’ in dance clubs,” he added.

The health pass or certificato verde is expected to be a requirement for travel and attending events in Italy this summer, however the government has not yet given full details of how the scheme will work.

It is expected to be operational by the end of June, and will be available to anyone who has either been vaccinated, has tested negative for coronavirus within the past 48 hours, or has recently contracted and recovered from Covid-19.

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on how the EU’s ‘Covid passports’ will work for travellers?

A passenger poses with her coronavirus (Covid-19) test certificate. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

Although ‘white zone‘ regions can drop most of Covid-19 restrictions such as the evening curfew, it’s still forbidden to hold house parties or to dance in discos.

Pasca stated that it’s key to “reopen safely” because young people are going to gather anyway.

“Otherwise, three million young people, especially at weekends, will crowd the discos when they are closed, they will gather in the squares or in uncontrolled places. Better (to do so) in the discos where there is control,” he added.

As for the question of wearing masks on the dance floor, it “would be impossible to make it compulsory to wear a mask”, the president of nightclub association Asso Intrattenimento, Luciano Zanchi told news agency Ansa.

“Let it be clear that our job is to get people together. People come to discos to socialise because they are places that welcome people, so it is not possible to wear a mask on the dance floor, where people dance and sweat,” stated Zanchi.

“We are very much in favour of green pass entry and tracking, so only people with antibodies or otherwise tested negative would enter the clubs,” he added.

Pasca, on the other hand, has taken a more conservative line and is in favour of keeping masks and removing them at the bar or while drinking or eating at the table.

READ ALSO: How to prove you have recovered from Covid-19 in Italy

Junior health minister Andrea Costa recommended a gradual reopening of discos and nightclubs from July, but with a different approach from last year, such as setting distancing rules.

“Telling young people to dance apart sounds like a joke, so more realistic criteria should be used,” he told Adnkronos.

Deciding on the best course of action for summer nightlife comes after videos of people gathering and dancing on Italy’s beaches were posted on social media, such as crowds of partygoers in Monopoli, a summer hotspot in Puglia.

But beach management association Assobalneari claimed that these are isolated cases and that in general the rules are respected.

National manager Fabrizio Licordari told Ansa, “We are in solidarity with other businesses that are still closed and willing to accept that no dancing is allowed on the beaches as long as it is possible to do it in discos.”

Italy’s ‘green pass’ is currently in paper format and a digital version is expected when the EU-wide travel pass scheme is launched.

Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said on Sunday that the government could offer free tests to families with children under 12, in order to obtain the pass.

As for nightclubs, he said: “I am not a disco guy, but if we have the green pass we have to believe in it, because it gives you access to more freedom and therefore we have to get to the point where you can go back to dancing by having the green pass.”

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”