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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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COVID-19 RULES

‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani defended the policy of testing all arrivals from China for Covid-19 after Beijing said the policy "lacks scientific basis".

'Not offensive': Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

“It seems perfectly normal to me,” Tajani told Italian state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday. “Having a test is a way to protect people’s health. There is nothing offensive about it.”

“Lots of Chinese and Italians coming from China do it (anyway),” he claimed.

READ ALSO: Is the EU likely to reinstate Covid travel restrictions?

Italy was the first European country to make testing on arrival a requirement for passengers arriving on flights from China last week, after a surge in the infection rate there.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Wednesday that the screening requirement was “essential to ensure the surveillance and identification of any variants of the virus in order to protect the Italian population”.

READ ALSO: Italy pushes for EU-wide China Covid measures as tests show no new variants

France and Spain have since introduced similar rules (as well as non-EU countries including the UK and USA) and there is now a meeting scheduled for Wednesday of the EU Integrated Policy Response Capability to discuss coordinating measures.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the screening policy would be “ineffective” if not done on a European level, as only people arriving on direct flights from China were being tested in Italy, not those with stopovers.

But the Chinese government on Tuesday hit out at countries introducing a policy of mandatory testing for people arriving from China.

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning was quoted as saying at a briefing by AFP.

“This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable”.

She said Beijing may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity”.

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