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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Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

It will still be obligatory for passengers to wear masks on flights to Italy until mid-June, despite the end of the EU-wide requirement on Monday, May 16th, the Italian government has confirmed.

Masks to remain mandatory on Italian flights after May 16th

The Italian government reiterated on Friday that its current mask-wearing rules remain in place until June 15th, reports newspaper Corriere della Sera.

This means the mask mandate will still apply to all air passengers travelling to or from Italy, despite the end of an EU-wide requirement to wear masks on flights and at airports across the bloc from Monday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What type of mask will I need for travel to Italy?

National regulations take precedence, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed when announcing the end of the EU rules.

“Wearing face masks at airports and inflight should be aligned with national measures on wearing masks in public transport and transport hubs,” they said in a joint statement published on May 11th.

READ ALSO: Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

“If either the departure or destination States require the wearing of face masks on public transport, aircraft operators should require passengers and crew to comply with those requirements inflight, beyond 16 May 2022.

“Further, as of 16 May 2022, aircraft operators, during their pre-flight communications as well as during the flight, should continue to encourage their passengers and crew members to wear face masks during the flight as well as in the airport, even when wearing a face mask is not required”.

The Spanish government also said on Thursday that air passengers would have to continue wearing face masks on planes.

Italy’s current rules specify that higher-grade FFP2 masks should be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trams, regional and high-speed trains, ferries, and planes.

Though rules were eased in some settings from May 1st, masks also remain a requirement until June 15th at Italy’s cinemas and theatres, hospitals and care homes, indoor sporting event and concert venues, schools and universities.