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COVID-19 RULES

Explained: What are Italy’s Covid rules for schools in September?

After Italy's education ministry confirmed Covid vaccination and mask mandates in schools will not be renewed by September, here's a look at the health precautions in place as school restarts.

Explained: What are Italy’s Covid rules for schools in September?
Students go back to Austrian schools in September, but will the Covid-19 restrictions return? (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Italy’s education ministry has indicated that most pandemic-related precautions will be dropped in the new academic year – including rules requiring teachers to be vaccinated and masks to be worn at all times in class.

An official memo sent out to schools ahead of the 2022-23 school year confirmed that these and other health measures in place last year will expire on August 31st.

READ ALSO: Italy’s unvaccinated teachers to return to class as Covid rules ease

No replacement protocol for schools has been announced – despite the fact that health experts agree the pandemic is by no means over.

For now, it looks as though Italian students of all ages will return to class next month with few health measures in place.

However, this doesn’t mean there will be no precautions taken in schools at all. 

Masking requirements and vaccination rules will no longer be in place as Italy begins the new school year.
File photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Schools are still required to apply a set of ‘strategic indications’ published by Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS), intended to contain the spread of coronavirus at times when the risk of contagion is lower, and to prepare schools to respond quickly in case infection rates surge.

These rules (see them here in full) state:

  • Students are allowed to attend class except in the case of fever or a positive Covid test result;
  • Pupils or staff “at risk of developing severe forms of Covid” need to wear FFP2 masks;
  • Schools should ensure correct hand hygiene and “respiratory etiquette” (covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, using paper tissues, etc);
  • “Frequent air changes” should be ensured in school buildings, as well as regular cleaning, and extra cleaning “in the presence of one or more confirmed cases”.

The health ministry may also bring in further health measures later in the year if deemed necessary, according to Italian media reports.

But for now, there’s no one to make the rules: Italy currently has a caretaker government in place as a month-long election campaign starts this week. 

Any new pandemic-related restrictions this autumn, in schools or elsewhere, will depend on the inclinations of the next government – which won’t take office until October at the very earliest.

Italy’s schools restart in mid-September, with the exact dates varying by region.

Find more information about Italy’s Covid-19 health restrictions on the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

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PROTESTS

‘No Meloni’: Why students across Italy are protesting on Friday

Some disruption was expected in central Rome, Milan and other Italian cities on Friday amid student protests against the new government's policies on education.

'No Meloni': Why students across Italy are protesting on Friday

Thousands of Italian students were reportedly taking to the streets on Friday to demand more investment in the country’s schools and universities – something they say is not a priority for the new hard-right government led by Giorgia Meloni.

Italian student unions Unione degli Studenti and Rete degli Studenti organised the day of coordinated demonstrations, which they dubbed ‘No Meloni Day’ in protest at the new prime minister’s stance on education.

Protestors said they were against her government’s focus on “meritocracy” after the education ministry was renamed the ‘Ministry for Education and Merit’.

Critics of the ministry’s new name say it promotes the idea that academic achievement is based solely on effort, and ignores structural injustices that prevent low-income students from progressing in school.

Alice Beccari, Unione degli Studenti communications manager, told Italian media that the group was however not protesting “exclusively” against the current government’s ideology.

“As in past years, we protest against reforms aimed at the privatisation and industrialisation of schools,” she said.

The main protest in Rome was expected to cause some disruption to bus services, as students march from Circo Massimo to the offices of Italy’s education ministry in the Trastevere district.

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