Safe school reopening ‘top priority’ for Italy’s Conte

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Parents and children from Rome's public primary and secondary school "IC Largo Oriani" take part in a flashmob entitled "Open School" (Apriti Scuola) at the Gianicolo Belvedere overlooking Rome on June 8, 2020, to mark the end of their "unusual school year" as the country eases its lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. - "Open School" marks the parents' will for the return of children and teachers to the classroom, but also for the opening of the school to outside spaces : parks, libraries and theatres. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

ROME (Italy) _ Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte vowed Monday that making schools safe from the coronavirus was Italy’s “top priority”, as millions of pupils get ready to return to class in two week’s time.

Some eight million youngsters are due back on September 14 after a six-month absence following Italy’s severe two-month lockdown which started in March.

“Once again Italy is in the front row to develop useful strategies to fight the coronavirus,” Conte said in a tweet.

The safe reopening of schools “today is our top priority”, he said.

One of the first countries in Europe to be struck by coronavirus, Italy shuttered schools on March 5 and since then learning has been very limited.

Ten days ago the government published new protocols to deal with renewed outbreaks of coronavirus which has killed almost 35,500 people so far, according to official statistics.

The protocols include the immediate quarantine of those who were in “close contact” with a pupil or teacher who tests positive for Covid-19.

Face masks are mandatory for all children over the age of six when they move around the schools except for gym class, eating in canteens and answering a teacher.

Italy has also dropped off 2.4 million individual desks and will daily hand out millions of face masks and as well as 170,000 litres of disinfectant gel every week.

But uncertainty remains ahead of school’s reopening.

Several regions including Puglia and Calabria in the south have postponed reopening until September 24 and others are considering doing the same.

President Sergio Mattarella on Monday urged Italy to “effectively face its responsibilities in this difficult time, saying schools were a “decisive resource”. _ AFP

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