Italy braces for train track protests against COVID passes

ROME: Italy’s government vowed to crack down on demonstrators threatening to block train tracks throughout the country Wednesday as a rule requiring COVID-19 tests or vaccines to use public transportation for long-distance domestic travel took effect.

In a bid to rein in the transmission of infections as Italians returned from summer vacations, the government announced weeks ago that passengers must show a so-called “Green Pass” to board domestic flights, trains and buses traveling between regions.

The passes certify the holder received at least one vaccine dose more than 15 days prior, tested negative in the past 48 hours or recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months.

The requirement also applies to sea travel, although some ferries are exempt, such as ones serving tiny islands with no other connections to the mainland and those used by commuters between Sicily and the southern tip of the mainland in Calabria.

Local buses, trams and subways also are exempt from the rule, which was announced by Premier Mario Draghi’s government when daily caseloads started steadily rising as the delta variant of the virus became prevalent in Italy.

Opponents of the requirement called for sympathizers to gather at some 50 train stations, including in Rome and Milan, on Wednesday afternoon and vowed to occupy rail tracks, if necessary, to stop trains.

Earlier this summer, a Green Pass requirement began for dining indoors at restaurants, accessing gyms or attending crowded events like concerts.

On the eve of the transportation rule taking effect, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said there would be zero tolerance for law breakers at track protests or for any violence. - AP