There are only two days left until October 15, when the Green Pass will become mandatory for all Italian workers, and there is widespread concern that in the coming weeks there will be problems in testing all unvaccinated workers for the coronavirus. This is an issue that is mostly talked about due to the possible overload of test requests to pharmacies, which are the main facilities where rapid tests can be carried out. But it is also talked about for the animated political debate between some parties that would like the tests to be free for all workers and the government which does not agree at all, and which so far has shown itself adamant.
It is estimated that from 15 October, in order to allow unvaccinated workers to obtain the Green Pass without having to vaccinate, about 1 million rapid antigen tests per day will have to be carried out, more than three times what are carried out on average today. In fact, to have the certificate, it will be necessary to be vaccinated or cured from COVID-19 within six months, or to have recently had a negative swab.
These are only estimates because there is no precise data on how many workers are actually unvaccinated: according to a confidential government document, published by Sheet, to date in total unvaccinated workers would be about 2.5 million. But there are also higher estimates, such as that made by the GIMBE Foundation – an independent non-profit organization that deals with public health – according to which there are 4-5 million people of working age who are not vaccinated.
If they are not vaccinated, these workers will have to perform a rapid antigen test every 48 hours or a molecular swab every 72 hours. The former can be done in pharmacies, at general practitioners and affiliated health facilities, they do not need a prescription, have a controlled price of 15 euros for adults and 8 euros for minors, and allow you to know if you are positive or not for coronavirus in a matter of minutes. Molecular swabs (by swab collection) are carried out in hospitals, clinics and family doctors, they are more reliable than rapid antigenic ones, but if you do not have a medical prescription they take several hours to know the outcome. They are also much more expensive, from 50 to 100 euros each.
If, as is very likely, the majority of unvaccinated workers will resort to the cheapest rapid antigen tests, considering the 48 hours validity of the certificate, about 7.5 million swabs will be needed every week, more than a million a day. So far, on average, a maximum of about 300,000 tests a day have been carried out throughout Italy, both antigenic and molecular. In particular, pharmacies, where an estimated two-thirds of rapid antigen tests are carried out, may need to more than triple their work.
– Read also: Was there the “Green Pass effect”?
The problem mainly concerns the Italian pharmacies where tests are carried out (about 10 thousand out of a total of 19 thousand), which may not be able to manage the many new requests.
Marco Cossolo, president of Federfarma, the national federation of Italian pharmacy owners, told a Republic that pharmacists are “ready to make an exceptional effort to increase the supply of tampons performed by Italian pharmacies and carry out tens of thousands more tampons”. It is possible that hundreds more pharmacies will need to be added to those already running tests in the coming days to meet an increase in demand.
Alessandro Albertini – vice president of ADF, association of pharmaceutical distributors – told a Republic that the problems should not so much concern the procurement of tests by the pharmacies, but rather the staff who will have to carry them out, those tests: “Many pharmacies are small and the activity to be carried out is heavy, for example there is something to do secretarial activity, to make appointments and enter data to have the Green Pass issued ».
The issue of the availability of tampons and antigen tests, and above all their cost, is also at the center of a heated discussion among the parties in parliament.
Even before the approval of the decree law of 21 September introducing the obligation of the Green Pass for workers, the unions had asked the government that tampons for workers were free. In the end, the government had only decided to introduce controlled prices for rapid antigen tests, and to make the swabs free only to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons and can prove it with a certificate.
In recent days, various politicians, especially from the center-right, have returned to ask the government for free tampons: the leaders of the Lega and Fratelli d’Italia, Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, did so on Tuesday, also Beppe Grillo, guarantor of the 5 Star Movement, which on its blog published a “pacification proposal on the Green Pass” which requires the state to pay tampons to unvaccinated workers.
Grillo has also made an estimate of how much according to him this operation would cost: about 1 billion euros until December 2021. At the moment Giuseppe Conte, president of the 5 Star Movement, has not commented on Grillo’s statements, even though he too was prior to approval of the decree had asked that the tampons for the workers be free.
However, the possibility that tampons will become free for workers has been repeatedly rejected by the government. On Tuesday, the Minister of Labor, Andrea Orlando, said he thought it “reasonable to think of all possible forms of control, but making the tampon free means basically saying that those who have been vaccinated have made a mistake”.
Salvini and Meloni also proposed to extend the validity of the rapid antigen tests to 72 hours, as for the molecular ones. “Extend the validity of all tampons from 48 to 72 hours and guarantee free tampons to workers without a Green Pass. The Lega asks for it, common sense requires it, ”Salvini said. However, this hypothesis was not recommended by the technical-scientific committee, according to which in 72 hours there is time to get infected and become infectious. In recent days, the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, had already told the program What’s the weather like which was not a viable hypothesis: «I think for now we have to leave it as it is and then evaluate whether to adapt it. We have chosen this plant ».
– Read also: The checks of the Green Pass for workers, in 10 points