(RNS) — In a decree signed January 5, the Vatican tightened its Covid-19 regulations by requiring the use of FFP2 masks (similar to N95 masks) inside and making vaccinations and booster shots mandatory for employees and visitors wishing to enter the Vatican Museums and gardens.
The Governorate of Vatican City State issued a decree in early January requiring the use of FFP2 masks in "all closed spaces" as well as any other type of mask while outside, in accord with health regulations in most parts of Italy.
In an attached document, the Vatican also issued fines for people who do not respect the new regulations. Local media reported the fines range from over $28 to more than $1,700 for employees who fail to wear the FFP2 masks, don't respect social distancing or don't follow quarantine measures.
Vaccinated people who have come in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 will have to self-isolate for five days and take a rapid test, or not at all if they received the second dose or booster within 120 days.
Starting January 31 every Vatican employee — not just health workers and those who come into contact with the public — will be required to present a "green pass," proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. And at that time restrictions will become stricter for the unvaccinated.
While there are very few who have not received the vaccine at the Vatican, Article 4 of the decree states unvaccinated employees will be considered absent without pay, which may eventually result in losing their position.
Pope Francis once again advocated for the global distribution of vaccines during his yearly address to diplomats and representatives to the Holy See on Monday. The pope said "baseless information" and "poorly documented facts" have prevented people from getting the vaccine, while criticizing the tendency to "be influenced by the ideology of the moment."
As the de facto monarch of Vatican City, Pope Francis may still be seen not wearing a mask during public audiences and events.
Visitors coming to see the Vatican Museums or gardens as well as the pontifical villas and the summer residence of the popes at Castel Gandolfo must also provide proof of vaccinations or recovery from Covid-19.
The decree specifies that conferences and events will be limited to 35% capacity and all individuals wishing to access the events or the mess hall must present a green pass.
All these categories, including visitors to the Vatican Museums and gardens, will also be required to get a booster shot after 120 days of receiving the second dose of the vaccine starting Jan. 31.
Answering questions from a Catholic media outlet, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope's second in command, seemed to reject the possibility of vaccine exemptions due to their use of fetal cell lines in testing.
"It seems that not wanting to undergo vaccination with this motivation cannot be justified," Parolin told the National Catholic Register in an email Sunday.