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Tourists turned away from Italy’s restaurants and museums amid confusion over Covid ‘green pass’ rules

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The Italian government made its health pass mandatory to enter indoor restaurants, museums, concert venues, gyms, spas, theme parks and many other leisure and cultural sites across the country from August 6th.

Q&A: Your questions answered about Italy’s new Covid health pass

Medical proof of vaccination against Covid-19 issued in another EU country, or in Canada, Israel, Japan, the UK or the US should be accepted for green pass purposes throughout Italy, according to a recent health ministry ordinance.

But dozens of readers have contacted The Local to report that they’ve been turned away when attempting to use a health certificate from one of the five approved non-EU countries.

Of the readers we’ve heard from who said they had no trouble using their non-EU passes, the majority were in Rome or Milan and had used their documents when visiting major attractions such as the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums, where police are often helping staff to check documents.

Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Elsewhere however, things don’t always seem to be working as smoothly.

From Sicily to Veneto, people have reported being turned away at bars, cafes, museums and more despite having proof of vaccination issued by an approved non-EU country.

“Multiple restaurants and museums immediately refuse entry when we are recognised as British as they know we don’t have access to the Green Pass,” said Carl Hunt in Tuscany.

Vincent Castro from the US said, “I am stationed in Naples with the navy and had trouble with local restaurants and Ikea not accepting my CDC card.”

EXPLAINED: How can you get Italy’s ‘green pass’ if you’re not vaccinated?

In many cases, the problem seems to be happening because business owners and staff simply aren’t aware of the rules.

“I tried to use my vaccination certificate from Ontario, Canada to enter two restaurants in Rome. The staff said they could only accept an Italian green pass,” said reader Viviana. “They were not aware of any directives from the Italian government to accept vaccination certificates from Canada. I was able to eat at an outdoor table.”

In the case of the UK’s NHS certificate, another problem appears to be that business owners are attempting to scan the barcode using the Italian ‘green pass’ verification app, Verifica C-19.

“I went to a restaurant and they wouldn’t let me in because the local Italian app wouldn’t recognise the code. If restaurants are meant to accept the UK code without scanning it with the local app, lots don’t seem to know,” said David Hewson.

The Italian health ministry’s ordinance does not state that non-EU passes must be scanned – since some types (like the US CDC card) do not feature a QR code, and those that do (as in the case of the NHS app) are not compatible with the Italian system.

Visitors wait in line before showing their Covid-19 certificates to enter the Ancient Colosseum in central Rome. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

There has been considerable confusion about this, as business owners have been instructed not to let people in without a verified QR code and may not realise that there’s an exception for certain non-EU passes. 

EXPLAINED: What documents can non-EU visitors use as a Covid pass in Italy?

As they risk fines of up to 1,000 euros if they are found not to be enforcing the rules, no doubt many business owners are applying the rules cautiously.

“The restaurant staff were trying to use a green pass code reader to scan our NHS QR code. I told him that it wouldn’t work for non-EU codes. He eventually gave up and let us into the restaurant,” said Brian from the UK.

The problem could soon be solved for people with the NHS pass, as a fix is reportedly in the works that would allow the Italian app to scan the UK code.

A professor of computer science, Leonardo Impett, tweeted that the problem was resolved and that the VerificaC19 app will “soon read NHS passes”.

Others have responded, saying that it is in fact already working for them after the second vaccination dose was registered.

But if your pass doesn’t have a QR code at all, what then?

“Some places have accepted my vaccination receipt from Canada. However, some places have a QR code reader on their smartphone and will only accept a green pass with the QR code,” said one reader who left an anonymous comment. 

READ ALSO: Which countries can use a Covid health pass to avoid quarantine in Italy?

“My double vaccination receipt from Canada doesn’t have one so I was denied entry. I’ve only experienced this so far at a Starbucks in Milan.”

US visitors from states which issue digital passes say they’ve had mixed results when trying to use them.

Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

“We visited the Domus Aurea and showed our New York State pass on the phone but it was not accepted, nor was a photo on the phone of the paper form. Only the paper would do, even though the NY pass is not forgeable, unlike the paper,” said Kevin Crowston.

“The NY pass was accepted by Swiss immigration, the Galleria Borghese and other museums, so perhaps we’d just been lucky before.”

READ ALSO:

Several readers have written in to say they are carrying around printed copies of the Italian health ministry’s ordinance with the relevant section highlighted, and pleading their case.

But when this tactic hasn’t worked, readers report missing out on planned trips and events.

While at restaurants you can simply sit outside instead, this is obviously not always a realistic option at the moment with a heatwave sweeping the country.

Some visitors have found they were left with no choice but to get tested during their trip in order to access the Italian green pass, despite being fully vaccinated.

EXPLAINED: What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 while visiting Italy?

Peter Grogan from the UK said he and his wife both have the NHS pass and it has so far “failed completely – with the same ‘Non valida’ result – on every occasion we have tried to use it since Friday.”

“We have a number of non-refundable bookings up to next Sunday and will have to do tests every 48 hours if we are not to be treated as undesirables. After that, we will have no choice but to go somewhere else.”

He also pointed out that tests are not always readily available, as there can be a wait for appointments at pharmacies where booking is required, as well as a wait for the result.

In some cases, people say they have cut their visits short due to the problems they’ve experienced.

“Only once in the past five days has a venue understood that they could accept my NHS certificate with my passport ID. I had a long wait at even the Accademia in Venice, which says on their website you can use it, before they let me in. I am now afraid to go out to eat knowing there will be a debate,” said Nick Scott.

“I have decided to leave Italy for Austria tomorrow as it is just too difficult here right now.”

The Local will continue to follow any updates to the health rules closely. Please check our homepage for the most recent reports.



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Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul

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Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.

Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.

Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.

A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.

Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.

“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.

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‘Covid light’: How to get Switzerland’s data-safe Covid certificate

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One of the major concerns surrounding Switzerland’s Covid certificate, as with other Covid passports, has been privacy. 

In order to respond to these concerns, Switzerland in summer launched the ‘Covid light’ certificate. 

Unlike the Covid certificate itself, which displays which vaccine they had, the date on which they were vaccinated, whether they have recovered from the virus or whether they tested negative, the Covid light certificate simply shows whether or not a person’s credentials are valid. 

As noted directly by the government “the certificate light does not contain any health data; it merely shows that the holder has a valid COVID certificate.”

More information about the certificate itself can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: What is Switzerland’s data-safe ‘light’ Covid certificate?

Importantly, the Covid light certificate only works in Switzerland, i.e. it cannot be used for travel purposes or in other countries. 

What exactly is the certificate light and is it in digital form? 

The ‘certificate light’ might sound like a separate document from the main Covid certificate, but in reality is effectively a data-safe function of the app itself. 

This function can be switched on, from which point the certificate only provides minimal data, including your name, date of birth, electronic signature and whether the certificate is valid or not. 

While this is done in the app, it can also be printed out. 

How do I get the certificate light?

If you go into your Covid certificate app, you can see there is an option to get a ‘certificate light’ if you tap on the certificate itself. 

Once the certificate is activated, it will be valid for 48 hours. After that 48 hour period, it must be activated again. 

UPDATED: A step-by-step guide to getting the Swiss Covid certificate

If you need to show your actual Covid certificate after you have activated certificate light (for instance for travel), you will need to deactivate it. 

The certificate light can be activated and deactivated again and again at no cost. 

The following diagram, produced by the Swiss government, shows how the certificate can be activated and deactivated (albeit in relatively shabby resolution). 

Switzerland’s Covid light certificate. Image: FOPH.



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The macro pig farm threatening a historical gem in northern Spain | Culture

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Christians and Muslims fought over the castle of Gormaz in Soria in the Spanish region of Castilla y León for two centuries. Now, after a lapse of hundreds of years, it is once again under threat – this time, from a macro pig farm for 4,200 animals. The proposed farm is within two kilometers of the fortress, and will be visible from its impressive caliphal gate, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the medieval site.

Environmental and neighborhood associations, architecture and restoration professionals, as well as the town councils of Recuerda, a village of 70 inhabitants, and Gormaz, a village of 20, call the plans an “attack” on one of the most impressive Islamic fortresses on the peninsula. With a perimeter measuring more than one kilometer, the castle of Gormaz was once the largest in Europe. It was this fortress that the Caliph of Córdoba, Al-Hakam II, ordered to be reinforced and expanded at the end of the 10th century to stop the Christian advance from the north.

Meanwhile, the company behind the project, Agro Peñaranda Esteban, insists it will comply “strictly with the law” and that if the permits are not issued, it will go elsewhere. “It’s great to eat torreznos [a kind of fried bacon snack] from Soria in a good restaurant in a big capital city,” says one of the shareholders, who is from the area. “People must think that they fall from the sky.”

The castle of Gormaz was built in the 9th century to strategically support Medinaceli, the capital of the so-called Muslim Middle Frontier. Divided into two large areas separated by a moat, there is the fortress with the tower of Almanzor and the caliphal quarters, and then the area for the troops, where the main entrance is located. Altogether, it has 28 towers with battlements and arrowslits.

The Soria fortress defended the routes to the north of the peninsula that followed the banks of the Duero river and was coveted by a number of figures, including Count García Fernández, Sancho II of Pamplona, Ramiro III of León, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the de facto ruler of Islamic Iberia, Almanzor. And so it passed from one side to the other until, in 1060, Fernando I of León seized it once and for all. During the reign of Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, it was turned into a prison as it no longer had any strategic value.

But now it is administrative forces that are advancing on the castle. On June 29, the Castilla y León regional government published “the announcement of a pig farm of 4,200 pigs in plot 20114 of industrial estate 1 of the municipality of Recuerda,” which backs onto Gormaz. August 10 was the deadline for anyone wishing to take issue with the environmental impact assessment, which states that the farm would not alter the surrounding landscape. “It is a landscape altered by human activity, due to its agricultural use, with no dominant variations or striking contrasts,” claims the report.

This contradicts the regional plan for the Duero Valley, approved by the Castilla y León regional authorities in 2010, which mentions a series of Landscape Management Areas (AOP) needing a specific regime of protection, management and planning. One such area includes the castle of Gormaz and the surrounding area where the farm would be located.

View of the San Miguel hermitage from the caliphal gate of the castle of Gormaz.
View of the San Miguel hermitage from the caliphal gate of the castle of Gormaz.José Francisco Yusta

Luis Morales, architect and member of the Soria Association for the Defense of Nature (Aseden), points out that the castle’s environment is “totally agricultural – fields and forests – and very similar to what it might have been in the Middle Ages, when Gormaz was built. To put an industrial complex of enormous dimensions to house more than 4,000 pigs, which is what they intend, is barbaric,” he adds. “It breaks up the landscape from the same caliphal gate, the one that is so often photographed for tourism purposes.”

Morales also believes that the municipalities have the means to stop the project, “because the land is rustic and can therefore be classified as protected, which would prevent the livestock complex from being built.” Meanwhile, the Aseden association points out that the regional authorities were responsible for the White Paper of the Territorial Enclaves of Cultural Interest (ETIC), which selected 111 locations of cultural or heritage interest, one of which was Gormaz.

According to the NGO Ecologists in Action, in this type of facility whose surface area would be 4,000 square meters plus another 2,000 for slurry, “the problem of odor emissions is very important because of its proximity and orientation with respect to inhabited areas and other places of interest.” It explains: “In this case, the farm would be to the west, 1.3 kilometers from Recuerda and two kilometers from the castle of Gormaz. According to data from [Spain’s national weather agency] Aemet, the prevailing winds are from the west. In other words, it would bring unhealthy smells for most of the year to Recuerda. Surprisingly, the project says that the prevailing winds are from the northeast.”

Consuelo Barrio, mayor of Recuerda, agrees. “It is not only the visual impact, which is very important, but also the environmental impact due to the possible contamination of the water from the slurry as we are in an area of aquifers; this is in addition to the smell that would come our way as we are barely a kilometer from it.”

Meanwhile, the company behind the project considers it is under “unjustified attack.” According to one 38-year-old businessman involved in the project, “in this part of Soria there are at least three farms: Quintanar, Gormaz…. And if ours smells, it means they all smell. It’s not like years ago, when pigs were thrown into the Duero – some of which I have seen floating – or the slurry was dumped down drains. No. There are strict environmental laws and we will comply with them. It is easy to talk about ‘deserted’ Spain and all the things the politicians are saying, but when you try to create wealth, obstacles are thrown up because you can be seen from the castle two kilometers away. If they don’t let us set up here, we’ll go somewhere else,” he adds angrily.

Marisa Revilla, president of Amigos del Museo Numantino, is particularly upset by the visual effect of the pig farm. “The impact report does not take into account the horizontal impact. It only states that they are going to put up some hedges to hide the farm. But the installation will not only affect the castle, it will also affect the nearby Romanesque San Miguel hermitage.” This hermitage was inspected in the 1990s by architect José Francisco Yusta, who specializes in historical monuments and also opposes the construction of the farm. “There is no justification for breaking up the landscape,” says Yusta, who has worked on such architectural gems as the cathedral of Burgo de Osma, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and castle of Gormaz itself.

“I believe it is not worth destroying our landscape for the two jobs that the macro-farm will provide, which are those proposed by the promoters,” says architect Luis Morales. “If there were only 200 for deserted Spain….”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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