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Green Pass proves shot in the arm for Italy’s tourism. Will Australia follow its lead?

Masked tourists take a selfie at Rome's Trevi Fountain in June. Source: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

A key ingredient of Italy’s Green Pass - believed to be instrumental in its post-COVID tourism rebound - is the batch number of the vaccine every person has received. Australia’s proposed vaccine passport doesn’t have that detail yet, but can it take a leaf out of Italy’s book and revive its own tourism?

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Italy suffered severely from the spread of the coronavirus. It became one of the most damaged countries and had many victims who fell to the virus.

But interestingly, in the summer of this year, one of Italy's most prominent sources of income, tourism, bounced back to levels better than not only 2020 but also 2019.

Like Italy, Australia’s GDP also relies significantly on tourism. Can Italy’s Green Pass be the template that Australia needs to put its tourism sector on the road to recovery?


Highlights:

  • Italy’s domestic tourism rebounds with introduction of Green Pass: Italian industry body
  • Public transport, airports, hotels, restaurants, museums in Italy can only be accessed via Green Pass
  • Australia’s international COVID passport is being developed to meet international travel standards

According to data from the Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato (CNA), the Italian trade association of small and medium businesses, more than 23 million domestic tourists booked hotel rooms and vacation rentals in the country in July and August.

This number is a significant improvement on not only 2020 (17 million), but also 2019 (18 million).

It is felt that Italy’s Green Pass has helped its people regain the confidence to travel and by extension, revive the tourism industry, both of which took a serious drubbing at the hands of the pandemic.

What is the Green Pass?

Italy’s Green Pass is a digital document issued by their health ministry that can be obtained after getting two vaccine doses or having proof of recovery from COVID-19. Unvaccinated people can also get it if they have a negative COVID-19 test. In that case, it is valid only for 48 hours. The pass is recognised all over the European Union.

Australians who plan to travel to Italy will need it as well, as it is the only way to access public transport and airports, hotels, restaurants, museums and many other indoor activities.

Tourist in Italy
Tourists at the Colosseum in Rome on August 10.
Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On 4 August, the Italian authorities announced that every citizen who wants the Green Pass, must show proof of his/her vaccination including the batch number of the vaccine.

That is the catch for those Australians who are planning to travel to Italy, as vaccine batch numbers are currently not made available to people who get vaccinated in Australia.

Services Australia, which runs Medicare, confirmed to SBS Italian that the immunisation history statement and the current COVID-19 digital certificate accessed through my.gov.au and the Medicare Express Plus app do not include the vaccination batch numbers because they are not required for domestic purposes.

This missing data has created problems for some Australians who had plans to travel to Italy for compassionate reasons.

Vaccine batch number: The Holy Grail?

Massimo, an Italian-Australian currently in Italy for personal reasons, said he could not access the Green Pass because he didn’t have the batch number of his vaccine doses.

“Despite requests made to my GP, Medicare, the Australian health department and the Sydney Olympic Park Vaccination Centre, my batch number is still unobtainable,” Massimo tells SBS Italian.

However, Barbara Amalberti was luckier.

After a long process, she was able to obtain the batch number of the first dose of the vaccine given to her daughter Sofia, who is currently in Italy awaiting the second vaccine.

Services Australia informed SBS Italian that the Australian government is currently developing an international vaccination certificate that will meet the agreed international travel standards, noting that the current certificate has been developed for domestic use only.

Another member of the Italian community, Alessandro Borina, found an article on SBS Italian useful.

“I found out through an article on SBS Italian that I would need the batch number once I am in Italy. I am flying there because my mom is very sick, and I am making arrangements for my business here before my flight,” Mr Borina says.

“The last thing I would have thought would be wasting time searching for some batch number,” he adds.

After a week of phone calls and emails to health authorities, Mr Borina was about to give up when he finally got the batch through a GP.

How to get your batch number?

According to Services Australia: 

  • If you have not yet been vaccinated, you can ask your vaccination provider for the batch number of your COVID-19 vaccine when you get vaccinated.
  • If you have already been vaccinated, Services Australia encourages you to contact your vaccination provider in the first instance.
  • If your vaccination provider can’t give you this information, you can call the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) on 1800 653 809.

Talking to SBS Italian, Lorena Bassolino says, “my boyfriend and I went to Sydney Olympic Park to get the jab and asked for the batch number. Andrea [boyfriend] was given the number by a doctor while I was refused. It took me some time and effort to convince the admin staff to print it for me as well”.

“It would be just so much easier for everybody if the health authorities were informed that we need this batch number,” suggests Nadia Fronteddu.

“We should have the batch number together with the official vaccination documents, what I have now is just a loose piece of paper,” she adds.

Can Green Pass be a template for reviving Australian tourism?

“People will feel more safe travelling around or to Australia if something like the Italian Green Pass is in place here,” suggests Ms Bassolino.

“Allowing people to prove their vaccination status could be key for overseas travel and may help avoid hotel quarantine,” she adds.

Tourist in Italy
Tourists are back in Pisa's Miracle Square since the famous Leaning Tower opened to the public.
Enrico Mattia Del Punta/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The introduction of the vaccine passport will allow Australians to prove their vaccination status overseas once international travel resumes.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan recently said the final details of the vaccine passport were being worked through. 

“This would mean I’ll finally be able to see my family after 18 months, it’s like a dream coming true,” Nadia Fronteddu comments.