Return to school coincides with rise in covid cases.
Seven million students will return to the classroom in Italy this week as schools across the country start to reopen after the long summer holidays.
The return to school coincides with a recent rise in covid cases in Italy, however the Italian health ministry's director of covid prevention Francesco Vaia said the situation is not a cause for alarm.
Vaia told Corriere della Sera on Saturday that the spike had been expected after the summer but noted that the numbers "are very different from previous years."
Walter Ricciardi, the former president of the Higher Health Institute (ISS), claimed on Monday that the return to school brings with it a risk of increased covid infections in the classroom.
In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, Ricciardi claimed that the health ministry's guidelines for schools are "insufficient" and "based on political rather than scientific criteria".
Mario Rusconi, president of the Italian principals' association, told state broadcaster RAI News that many schools will hand out masks and gel "to those who ask", making use of supplies distributed during the "critical phase" of the pandemic.
Massimo Andreoni, scientific director of the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (Simit), told news agency Adnkronos that "school has always been a hotbed of viruses" and that he didn't think there was "any harm" in offering masks to students.
The obligation for students to wear masks in the classroom ended on 1 September 2022 with the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year.
When do Italy's schools reopen?
The reopening date of Italy's schools varies according to region, with most schools reopening in this week apart from the autonomous province of Bolzano where lessons resumed last Tuesday.
Schools reopen on Monday in Piemonte, Trentino and Valle d'Aosta, while on Tuesday schools reopen in the northern Lombardia region around Milan.
Students return to the classroom on Wednesday in Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Marche, Sicily, Umbria and Veneto.
Schools reopen on Thursday in Calabria, Liguria, Molise, Puglia and Sardinia while students Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and the central Lazio around Rome go back to school on Friday.
Christmas holidays will generally be from 23 December to 6 January in all regions of Italy, with Easter holidays from 28 March to 2 April, and the last bell of the academic year set to ring in most regions on 8 June 2024.
For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy see health ministry website.
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