Covid: Italy recalls single-seat school desks over fire risk

New school desks had been commissioned for social distancing.

Italy is recalling single-seat desks from schools - commissioned last year to facilitate social distancing - for not meeting fire safety regulations, reports Italian newspaper Il Tempo.

The desks were hailed initially as a crucial element in reducing the spread of covid-19 in schools, by then education minister Lucia Azzolina and former coronavirus commissioner Domenico Arcuri, appointed by ex-premier Giuseppe Conte.

The 13 companies who won the tenders to supply Italy with millions of desks and chairs with wheels included the Portuguese firm Nautilus - reports Il Tempo - which signed two contracts: one worth €7.3 million for 110,000 single-seat benches, and another worth €2.2 million for 70,000 chairs.

"We do not know if, in the end, they were all delivered," writes Il Tempo.

Arcuri's successor General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, appointed in March by premier Mario Draghi, has ordered the withdrawal of the Nautilus furniture from 136 schools for failing to comply with regulations on fire safety.

The cost of recalling the furniture is €173,000, on top of the roughly €9 million already spent, according to Il Tempo.

The desks were widely viewed as a flop from the outset, with many school principals putting them in storage over complaints that they took up too much space in already cramped classrooms.