Nicholas Farrell

The pointless tyranny of Italy’s Covid pass

The pointless tyranny of Italy’s Covid pass
(Photo: Getty)
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While most European countries, especially Britain, are relaxing their Covid restrictions, Italy which has the toughest of the lot, this week made them tougher still – even though the data shows they are futile.

Perhaps it is because Italy is a country where fortune tellers and faith healers are a multi-billion pound industry that it has the most draconian vaccine passport regime in Europe. Either way, mass psychosis blinds its politicians and people from the truth.

In the UK, bogus claims by government scientific advisers about the need for, and benefits of, lockdowns were in the end convincingly demolished and The Spectator played a significant role in the process. It is high time that similar bogus claims about vaccine passports are debunked as well.

There can be no better place to start this debunking process than Italy.

The justification for Italy’s vaccine passport regime – called ‘Il Green Pass’ – when introduced last August was that it would increase vaccine uptake, create safe spaces for the vaccinated, and thereby reduce Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths. It has done none of these things.

Instead the regime became steadily more draconian. The unvaccinated were soon banned from nearly all public spaces and public transport, and even from work, unless they had had Covid in the last six months – or paid for a €15 Covid test once every 48 hours.

Hailed as a huge success with religious fervour by Italy’s government of national unity, headed by the unelected premier and ex-EU central banker, Mario Draghi, ‘Il Green Pass’ has been in reality nothing but an exercise in pointless tyranny.

Yet despite this, in December, the Draghi government introduced ‘Il Super Green Pass’ which made the regime even more tyrannical with vaccination now compulsory for all on public transport, and in many public spaces such as restaurants and bars – even outside – and hair salons and sports stadiums, unless they have had Covid in the past six months. The right of the unvaccinated to take the 48 hour €15 test to access them was cancelled.

And this week, with the infection rate in free fall, compulsory vaccination was extended to the workplace for the over 50s. Vaccination was already compulsory at work for health and emergency service workers and teachers. But from now on, no unvaccinated person over the age of 50 who has not had Covid in the past six months can go to work. If they do, they and their employer face fines of €600 to €1,500. Previously, they could still go to work if they took the €15 Covid test every two days or if they had Covid in the past six months. There are 500,000 unvaccinated Italians over the age of 50 who work and will now be suspended on no pay – according to Italian press reports – unless they throw in the towel and get jabbed.

Naturally, neither unelected Draghi nor anyone else in his cross-party coalition is ever going to admit that what they trumpet as their proudest achievement is a failure. Nor will Italy’s media which has so supinely toed the government line – nor the Italians themselves – three quarters of whom support ‘Il Green Pass’ in the polls. They all have too much face to lose now.

That their obsessive belief about the marvels of ‘Il Green Pass’ is complete nonsense is clear from a comparison of the data for Italy and Britain which has not really had any form of vaccine passport.

Italy and Britain have similar populations, with 59 million and 69 million people, respectively.

Today – after nearly seven months of Italy’s vaccine passport regime – the number of unvaccinated people in Italy and Britain remains more or less the same. In Italy, 88.92 per cent of over 12s are fully vaccinated, compared to 84.9 per cent in Britain.

In January, there were still 5.9 million unvaccinated Italians over the age of 12 – once again a similar number to the one in Britain.

The lesson is clear: as Britain shows, the vast majority of people have chosen to be vaccinated of their own free will and do not need to be compelled to do so by the state. Indeed, compelling people to do so – as Italy shows – does not work.

What matters most, of course, is the body count. But here too ‘Il Green Pass’ and ‘Il Super Green Pass’ have had little effect. In fact, by creating a sense of false confidence among the vaccinated, they may well have made matters worse. Either way, they have failed.

If they had worked Italy’s infection rates would have been far lower than Britain’s. Yet since the start of the last big sombrero wave in December caused by the Omicron variant, Italy has had a remarkably similar number of Covid infections to green pass-less Britain.

The explanation, of course, is that regardless of all those green passes, vaccinated Italians infect each other.

Since 1 December – when the Delta variant was on the way out and the Omicron variant on the way in – there have been more than seven million Covid cases in both Italy and Britain.

In Italy, 70 per cent of Covid infections in the past month have been in people either partially or completely vaccinated. True, proportionately, few vaccinated people who get Covid end up in hospital, or dead, but those who do still add up to a lot of people. Around half of Covid hospitalisations in Italy and more than half of Covid deaths since December have been either partially or fully vaccinated people.

To add insult to injury, Italy has had many more Covid deaths than Britain since 1 December as well.

In Italy, since 1 December, there have been 18,000 Covid deaths, compared to 15,000 Covid deaths in Britain. That is a huge difference.

Yet Italy's politicians, journalists and most Italians themselves continue to believe that ‘Il Green Pass’, now morphed into ‘Il Super Green Pass’, is the only solution.

Italy has not had an elected Prime Minister since 2011 – elected in the sense that the Prime Minister has been leader of a coalition or party that won a general election. However, it is not the un-democratic nature of Italian governments that explains Italy's vaccine passport regime but the dictatorial nature of the Italians. Ironically, the only major party to oppose the regime is the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia.

Almost unbelievably, last week a journalist actually quizzed Professor Walter Ricciardi, the Health Minister's Covid scientific adviser, about this comparison between Italy and Britain on a major TV political chat show.

The professor – an Italian equivalent of our own beloved professor Neil Ferguson – was droning on about how the vaccine passport guarantees liberty when a journalist present asked him why it was necessary when countries like Britain and Spain have no such thing and yet had a lower death rate.

Indeed, according to John Hopkins University figures Italy has had 252.55 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and Britain 240.57.

Prof Ricciardi – who accused the journalist of making statements ‘destitute of any scientifc foundation’ – retorted: ‘England calculates deaths in a completely different way from us – if it calculated in the same way, it would have double. It claims about 150,000 but it's 300,000.’

Nonsense! In reality, Britain requires only that the deceased has tested positive in the last 28 days of their life which if anything over-estimates the death-toll. But in Italy, health service guidelines state: ‘Testing positive to Sars-Cov-2 is not enough to consider the death to be due to Covid-19.’

The professor went on to claim that the inglesi (Italians always insist Britain is England) have refused to learn from Italy and as a result Inghilterra's ‘numbers of deaths and cases’ are ‘enormously greater than ours’. Nonsense, again. He concluded by saying that the NHS is so bad that for hip surgery ‘it’s a ten year wait’. That, at least, is possibly true.