Italy tightens curbs on unvaccinated as COVID-19 cases rise

People wear protective masks as they walk down a street, as the city makes masks mandatory outdoors in busy areas amid a rise in coronavirus cases, ahead of Christmas, in Rome, Italy, December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

ROME (Reuters) - Italy tightened curbs on Monday on people still not vaccinated against COVID-19, limiting their access to an array of places and services.

The measures were announced last month, even before the discovery of the Omicron variant, and come as cases of coronavirus are starting to tick up across the country, albeit at a slower rate than in many other European nations.

Under the new rules, only people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 can access indoor seating at bars and restaurants, visit museums, go to cinemas and clubs and attend sporting events.

A basic green health pass, available to the unvaccinated but only if they have had a negative COVID-19 test within the past 48-hours, is still valid for all workers.

In addition, the basic pass became obligatory for all public transport from Monday.

Police started enforcing the measure from the early hours, with anyone caught on a bus, metro, tram or train without the health certificate facing an automatic 400-euro ($450) fine.

The pass is also now required for anyone wishing to stay in a hotel or to access sports changing rooms.

"It is an absolutely necessary measure," Rome resident Marco Formichella said. "If we don't want to go back to the restrictions that we have had to endure for a year and a half then we must adapt."

Italy has one of the highest vaccine uptakes in the world with 80% of the population having received either one or two jabs, while around 15% of people have had a booster shot.

COVID-19 infections have risen in recent weeks, hitting 15,000 on Sunday, less than half the number of cases recorded in Germany, France and Britain, with the high vaccine rate being credited for helping contain the disease.

There were violent protests against the move in October when the government first introduced the green pass for all workers, but the nationwide demonstrations have dwindled markedly over the past month.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Oriana Boselli; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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