A digital Covid-19 vaccination code pass on a mobile phone. Italy has made it compulsory for all workers to have a Covid green pass, proof of vaccination, a negative test or recovery from the virus. Photo: AFP / EyePress News

Protesters gathered at Italian ports on Friday as the country braced for widespread disruption over new coronavirus requirements for workers.

Roughly 300 people blocked an entrance to the port of Genoa in the northwest, causing delays in what was feared to be the start of a day of blockades and demonstrations.

Hundreds also demonstrated at the port of Trieste, a major hub in the northeast, but regional chief Massimiliano Fedriga insisted “the port is working.”

From Friday, all workers must show a so-called Green Pass offering proof of vaccination, recent recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test – or face being declared absent without pay.

More than 86% of Italians over the age of 12 have received at least one jab, thus automatically qualifying for the certification.

But up to three million workers are estimated to be unvaccinated – and most will only be able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type.

Ivano Russo, the director-general of trade group Confetra, said that out of a total of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers and warehouse staff employed by members of his lobby, “25-30%” do not have Covid certificates.

Dock workers in Trieste have threatened to go on strike indefinitely, despite being offered free Covid tests. 

In Genoa, the small blockade was peaceful early Friday, although some truck drivers reported delays.

“Today it’s really hard to unload,” Marco, a 50-year-old driver, told the ANSA news agency.

“I have to unload, I have to be able to work. I took the vaccine to get the Green Pass because I have to work.”

Downloading passes

More than 560,000 Green Passes were downloaded on Wednesday, according to government data, suggesting that the advent of the new rules was boosting vaccinations.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government has defended the Green Pass as a way of avoiding further lockdowns in Italy, where the economy is expected to record almost 6% growth this year after a devastating Covid-induced recession. 

Ministers looked unlikely to give in to calls for free Covid tests for all, but the ANSA news agency reported that they were considering larger tax breaks for firms that pay for them. 

Anti-pass protests were expected across the country on Friday, but the government hopes to avoid a repeat of demonstrations in Rome last weekend that degenerated into violent clashes inflamed by far-right militants.

Trade unions are planning an anti-fascist rally on Saturday.