Some 5.6 million pupils were back in class on Monday as schools re-opened in most of Italy after more than six months of a Coronavirus-related shutdown.
“Today is an important day for the entire national community,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, adding that the government was “not hiding the difficulties.”
Some regions have postponed the re-opening date to next week, while German-speaking South Tyrol did it earlier on Sept. 7.
In total, there are more than 8 million school children in Italy.
Re-opening schools is proving to be a major logistical and organisational challenge, amid fears it may lead to a new spike in contagion numbers.
“There will be an increase in new positive cases, but a limited one; we should not be scared,” Prof. Franco Locatelli, a top public health expert, said.
Schools have had to re-arrange classrooms to make sure pupils sit at least 1 metre apart.
If this is not possible, or when moving around, they have to wear face masks.
“I don’t think the kids will have too many problems.
“Of course, it won’t be like the other years, but let’s hope they’ll still be able to concentrate,” a mother in Rome told the Agenzia Vista news site.
To facilitate social distancing, the government has ordered 2.4 million single-seat school desks, but their delivery is late and is not expected to be completed until late October.
There are also widespread problems with shortages of teachers, support staff and classroom space, prompting harsh criticism of the government from the opposition.