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Italy’s new government ordered further school closings Tuesday after data showed that most coronavirus cases were of the contagious British variant.
All schools in the regions with the highest risk will switch to distance learning according to new rules from Saturday, while so far only secondary schools in so-called red zones have been closed.
Regional authorities will also have a new discretion to suspend classroom teaching in areas in lower risk orange and yellow regions where the coronavirus situation is particularly bad. This emerges from a decree that is valid until April 6th.
New data from the national ISS health institute showed that 54 percent of coronavirus cases in Italy were now the so-called British variant, which is believed to be more contagious.
“The British variant has a special ability to penetrate the younger generation,” said Health Minister Roberto Speranza at a press conference.
“This has prompted us to make a decision that the school of all levels in red zones will be distance learning.”
According to the latest classification, which went into effect on Monday, only two of Italy’s 20 regions were red: Basilicata and Molise in the south. Lombardy, which includes the cities of Milan, Marche and Piedmont, is orange.
When he took over last month, new Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged to use “whatever means” to deal with the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 and devastated the economy in Italy.
On Monday, the former head of the European Central Bank (ECB) tasked a high-ranking military officer with the coronavirus crisis. General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo replaced businessman Domenico Arcuri as Italy’s special commissioner for the health emergency.
The new decree also extends an existing travel ban between regions of Italy until March 27th.
In some good news, theaters and cinemas are allowed to reopen in yellow zones from March 27, albeit with a capacity of 25 percent, while museums are allowed to be open not only on weekdays but on Saturdays.
The government also unveiled a new “white zone” that will lift most of the nationwide restrictions in place in recent months, including closing table service in bars and restaurants at 6:00 pm.
Only the island of Sardinia will be classified as white as of Monday, and the authorities there have decided to reopen it gradually.
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