UPDATE: What are the new Covid rules in Italy’s schools?

Italy's government has updated its rules for how schools across the country should act to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Here's what changes from Monday.

UPDATE: What are the new Covid rules in Italy's schools?
Pupils wait to enter a high school in Rome in September 2020. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

From November 8th, schools across Italy are operating under a new set of guidelines with regards to self-isolation requirements in cases where a student or teacher tests positive for the coronavirus.

A communique put out by the Ministry of Education on November 6th states that from Monday, an automatic quarantine requirement for staff and students should be triggered only in the event that three people in a given class test positive for Covid-19, reports the news agency Ansa.

In situations where only one member of the class tests positive, students should continue to come to school, but will need to take a test as soon as possible after their classmate’s infection is discovered and on the fifth day after that.

Where two members test positive, classmates who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid in the past six months will continue to come to school under the zero and five-day testing regime, while all others will be required to self-isolate.

Until now, an automatic quarantine requirement has been in place in cases where any student or teacher tests positive for the virus, with vaccinated students subject to a seven day self isolation period and the non-vaccinated required to isolate for ten days.

READ ALSO: Italy outlines plan to resist Covid closures as four million students return to school

The new measures are intended to try to keep schools open as far as possible as the rate of new Covid infections rises across the country.

Italy’s education minister Patrizio Bianchi had previously said before schools reopened in September that the government would do everything in its power to ensure they would remain open as far as possible, and has put a range of strategies in place to make this happen.

The most significant change this year is the requirement for school staff, external workers, and parents – basically anyone who isn’t a student – to show a green pass in order to gain access to school premises.

The new rule came into effect for school employees on September 1st, and was expanded on September 9th to include external workers such as cleaning company and canteen staff, as well as parents of schoolchildren.

The health certificate proves bearers have been vaccinated with at least one dose, have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months, or have tested negative in the previous 48-72 hours (depending on the type of test take). Unvaccinated individuals may therefore access school buildings, but must take a pharmacy-administered Covid test every two days at their own expense.

READ ALSO: Parents in Italy to require Covid green pass to enter schools

Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

READ ALSO: UPDATE: Where do you now need to show a Covid green pass in Italy?

According to the Italian news site, the Ministry of Education has developed a new ‘super app’ that will allow school principals and administrative staff to automate the process of checking that their staff are complying with the requirement.

Staff who are without passes for five days straight will be suspended and have their pay frozen, while non-staff members caught entering schools without the certificate face fines of up to €1,000.

Many of the safety measures that were in place previously have continued into this school year, including masks for everyone aged over six, staggered entrance and exit times, and quarantine rules for classes with positive cases, as well as the possibility of some classes still being taught online, depending on the health situation in each local area and the rules provided under Italy’s tiered system of restrictions.

READ ALSO: What changes about life in Italy in September 2021?

Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Schools are also required to have separate designated entrance and exit zones, and only one parent is allowed to accompany their child directly outside the school building for drop offs and pick ups. Students’ temperatures should be taken as they leave at the end of the school day, but not on arrival.

READ ALSO: Italy considers dropping school mask mandate for fully-vaccinated classes

Social distancing of one metre between each student is no longer a requirement in classrooms which lack the space, as long as other safety measures are observed. The Ministry of Education recommends keeping windows in classroom open, and some schools have invested in new ventilation systems, but it’s been left up to individual institutions to undertake such initiatives.

Towards the start of September, Bianchi said he hoped to remove the mask mandate for fully-vaccinated classes of schoolchildren in the coming weeks and months, despite warnings from some experts that such a move might be premature.

This prospect is now looking increasingly unlikely as the Covid infection rate in Italy has started to climb.

READ ALSO: Analysis: Why are Covid infections in Italy rising?

Italy’s health ministry on Friday reported that the Rt number, which shows the rate of transmission, has now risen above the critical threshold of 1 for the first time in months. An Rt number above 1 indicates that the epidemic is in a phase of expansion.

Scientists believe the prevalence of the more infectious Delta variant, colder weather, and an increase in gatherings and travel are all factors contributing to the rise in cases.

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What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

Italy is a dream destination for many people, but the spike in Covid-19 cases this summer means visitors could still run into problems. Here is what you need to know.

What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

Italy is full of unique destinations, from beautiful beaches to millennium-old architecture. No wonder the country gets so many visitors every year, especially during the summer months.

However, coronavirus infection rates are increasing in the country. Some regions, including Lazio, where Rome is located, and Veneto, the home of Venice, are classified by the Health Ministry as high risk.

With that in mind, here is what you should know about the pandemic in Italy and what to do in case you test positive.

What are the current entry rules?

First things first: what do you even need to enter Italy? Are there any coronavirus restrictions? The answer is no.

Travel to Italy for any reason, including tourism, is currently allowed without restrictions from all countries. In addition, since June, Italy has scrapped the requirement to show proof of coronavirus vaccination, recent recovery or a negative test from travellers.

There is also no need to fill in any online forms.

What restrictions do exist?

The main Covid-related restriction you will find in Italy is a strict face mask mandate for all forms of public transport, except for flights (domestic and international). These rules should remain in place at least until the end of September.

The masks required are the higher-grade FFP2 masks, and you should wear them on buses, trains, taxis, and all forms of public and shared transport.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

Face masks also remain obligatory in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities.

However, there is no need to wear face masks in public open or indoor public spaces – though it is recommended, especially in crowded areas.

Where can I get tested?

If you want to be on the safe side or have any coronavirus symptoms, it is possible to get tested in Italy.

If you need to get tested while in Italy because you suspect you may have Covid-19, you must minimise your contact with anyone else.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

The Italian health ministry says you should isolate yourself where you’re staying and call a doctor, Italy’s nationwide Covid hotline (1500), or the regional helpline where you are (complete list here) for assistance.

They will help you arrange an emergency test. Do not go to a medical centre or pharmacy in the meantime.

If you do not have symptoms, tests can be carried out without a prescription at Italy’s airports, pharmacies, labs, testing centres, or even at your accommodation via private doctors.

READ ALSO: The essential Italian phrases you need to know for getting tested and vaccinated

Fast antigen tests are also widely available in pharmacies in Italy.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in Italy must undergo at least one week of isolation. Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

What are the self-isolation rules if I test positive?

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and also boosted or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

READ ALSO: Italy to keep quarantine rules in place as Covid cases rise

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine to be allowed out. If you keep testing positive after that, you may stop isolation only at the end of 21 days.

Italy has one of the strictest self-isolation rules, so keep that in mind if you plan your summer holidays here.

Where can I self-isolate?

That will depend. You might be able to stay in your existing accommodation but might also be required to transfer to a state hospital or other government-provided accommodation. Check with the local authorities.

Additionally, you may need to fund accommodation – if only to extend your hotel stay, for example.

What if I need treatment?

If you are an EU citizen, your country’s healthcare can cover state treatments. The same if you are a UK citizen and hold an EHIC or GHIC. The e-card, European health card, EHIC or GHIC will not cover private treatments, though.

If you are a third-country citizen, you must check exactly what your travel insurance covers. In general, people travelling to Europe from abroad are recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical treatments, and you might also be insured through a credit or debit card. So, it is worth checking and planning.

Where can I get more information?

The Italian Health Ministry has a Covid-19 hot site in English for travellers where you can find helpful contact and the latest restrictions and information.