In the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to vaccinate its population, Italy is making COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers — becoming the first European country to do so.

In a newly approved measure introduced Thursday by the Italian government, officials said digital vaccine certificates will be mandatory for all employees across the country.

The health pass, or "green pass," details whether a person has been fully vaccinated, tested negative or has recently recovered from the virus. The passes are available in both digital and paper formats.

From Oct. 15 through the end of the year, any worker failing to present their health vaccine certificate to their employer will be suspended without pay for up to five days but will not be fired.

Health passes were originally introduced to ease traveling around Europe. However, Italy has made it a requirement to eat indoors at restaurants or visit museums and gyms.

"We are extending the obligation of the green pass to the entire world of work, public and private, and we are doing so for two essential reasons: to make these places safer and to make our vaccination campaign even stronger," Italy's health minister, Roberto Speranza, said in a news briefing, according to Euronews.

Unemployed citizens and those living on pension will be exempt from showing their vaccine health pass, officials tell Euronews.

News of Italy's mandatory requirement comes after the country reports more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 130,000 deaths, according to recent data from Johns Hopkins University.

So far, 74% of Italians have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and 68% are fully vaccinated.

Italy has the second-highest death toll from COVID-19 in Europe, with Britain reporting more than 130,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Earlier this month, Italy made the green pass a requirement for its teachers and other public workers, as health care workers were required to be vaccinated since March.

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