Italy extends COVID-19 Green Pass to trains, planes, ferries and coaches

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ROME (Reuters) -Italy broadened usage of Green Pass health documents on Wednesday, making them obligatory for anyone travelling on high-speed trains, planes, ferries and inter-regional coaches.

The Green Pass is a digital or paper certificate that shows whether someone has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, has tested negative or has recently recovered from the virus.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi introduced the pass earlier in the summer to try to prevent infections and encourage people to get vaccinated. It was initially needed to enter many cultural and leisure venues, but its scope has gradually been widened.

The scheme has triggered protests by some Italians who say it tramples on freedoms, and opponents had vowed to block railway traffic on Wednesday to show their dissent. In the event only a handful of people showed up at the demonstrations.

Some 70% of all Italians over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated and the vast majority of people seem to back the inoculation drive and the use of the Green Pass.

"They are right to ask for a Green Pass. If you don't want to get the vaccine then stay at home and don't travel," Rome resident Alessia Colombi said at the city's main train station.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Tuesday denounced what he called a "climate of hatred" against the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, after he and a number of other politicians and medical experts received threats on social media.

The government has already said teachers will need a Green Pass when schools reopen this month after the summer holidays. Last week, officials said they were considering extending the scheme to anyone working in a public office or a supermarket.

Some 129,221 people have died of coronavirus in Italy since the pandemic hit last year, the second highest death toll in Europe after Britain. New cases held relatively steady in August, but doctors fear the more contagious Delta variant could cause a fresh spike in infections in the coming weeks.

(Reporting by Gabriele Pileri and Crispian BalmerEditing by Gareth Jones)

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