Italy to test teachers for covid-19 before schools reopen

Italy's principals seek clarity on covid-19 protocols with schools just weeks away from reopening.

Italy is to make two million covid-19 tests available for teachers, janitors and school staff between 24 August and 7 September, one week before the scheduled reopening date of 14 September, reports Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The finger-prick tests, which will be free and voluntary, will be carried out on teachers and school staff from kindergartens through to high school.

If a teacher or school staff member tests positive, a swab test must be conducted within 48 hours at the latest, according to a circular sent from the health ministry to regional school offices, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The news comes as Italy’s head teachers demand protection from prosecution if pupils become infected by covid-19 at school, amid fears that the school could be held legally responsible.

With the start of the academic year just weeks away, the Italian government is scrambing to establish protocols as it prepares to announce the restrictions to be implemented, expected by the end of this month.

In the meantime many details remain unclear and there is increasing pressure on Italy's education minister Lucia Azzolina for clarity regarding rules around key issues such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

Italian media has reported that each school must appoint a staff member to act as a link between the school and the health authorities in the advent of a covid-19 case.

Each school will reportedly be obliged to have a room available to send suspected cases for immediate isolation, with the room being designated exclusively for this purpose.

Schools are also reportedly waiting for the nationwide roll-out of single-seat desks, designed to ensure interpersonal distance, however there are concerns that the desks will not arrive at all schools in time for the reopening date.

"The schools must not only be reopened," - Azzolina said - "we must also ensure that they do not close", reports Italian news agency ANSA.

If a pupil tests positive for coronavirus, schools will close temporarily and then reopen, deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri told Sky Tg24 on 18 August. Close contacts of the student will be quarantined, with pupils following online lessons from home for 14 days, according to Sky Tg24.

Italy's schools closed in the early stages of the covid-19 crisis on 5 March and did not open before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Earlier this summer the Italian premier Giuseppe Conte promised that Italy's schools would reopen "in complete safety" on 14 September.