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Concern grows about distance learning as Italy extends high school closures

Italy on Tuesday postponed the return of high schools as coronavirus restrictions were extended.

Concern grows about distance learning as Italy extends high school closures
High school students will return to attending 50 percent of classes in-person from January 11th. Photo: AFP
Teenagers will return to class on January 11th, instead of January 7th, when younger children go back to school – but then still only for half their classes, under a new government order signed in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
 
 
The other 50 percent of classes will remain online.
 
Several regions have already decided to postpone the return of high schools until the end of January, judging it too risky.
 
The regional authorities of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia said they will keep their high schools closed until at least January 31st.
 
Meanwhile, charity Save the Children issued a warning about the potential negative effects of closing schools.
 
'Severely affected'
 
Italian teens have only been in face-to-face classes for a few months in the past year due to the spring lockdown and further restrictions imposed at the start of a second wave in the autumn.
 
Save the Children warned on Tuesday that the pandemic had “severely affected” the lives of millions of youngsters and said distance learning had caused “perhaps irreparable damage”.
 
 
It published a survey of 14 to 18-year-olds in which 28 percent said they had at least one classmate who stopped attending lessons, warning tens of thousands of school students may be dropping out.
 
The 1,000 teens surveyed cited the difficulty in connecting online and lack of concentration, while 37 percent said their own ability to study had been negatively affected.
 
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Save the Children also warned of the risks to children who do not have the technology or the space at home needed to work online.
 
“We run the risk that long absences from school will turn into permanent abandonment and that many girls and boys in this serious economic crisis will end up swelling the ranks of exploited labour,” said Raffaela Milano, director for Italy-Europe.
 
The government also extended the current ban on moving between regions until at least January 15th, and confirmed bars and restaurants would stay shut over the weekend of January 9-10.
 
The rules were extended as Italy waits for the next set of coronavirus measures to be announced, under the upcoming emergency decree, by January 15th.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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