Italy on Friday began the delivery of new school desks adapted for COVID-19 safety regulations, part of a large-scale effort to re-open classrooms after a six-month shutdown.
A government commissioner ordered more than 2.4 million desks, and the first 799 were delivered to schools in Bergamo province, which was worst hit by the pandemic.
Schools are being equipped with one-seat desks to facilitate social-distancing.
Students are supposed to sit at least 1m apart; if not, they will have to wear face masks.
he new desks are smaller than previously used one-seat models, and in some schools with older equipment, are due to replace two-person desks.
Schools are scheduled to re-open on Sept. 14, but the government is struggling to put everything in place.
The delivery of the new desks is for instance, expected to continue until late October.
Authorities are facing other challenges, including distancing on public transport and school buses, as well as potential staffing problems.
The daily Corriere della Sera reported that many teachers classified as “fragile workers,” such as those with pre-existing conditions, may refuse to return to school, due to health risks.
Italy closed schools and universities in early March, when it became the first Western country to go into a national lockdown. However, classes and exams continued remotely.
Earlier, Civil Protection Agency official Agostino Miozzo, said in a parliamentary hearing that re-opening schools was a risk, but yet a necessity.
“We expect, as it is happening abroad, some slight increase in the virus transmission index, but the risk needs to be weighed against the absolute need to re-open schools, Miozzo said.