Italy considers shutting down schools nationwide over novel coronavirus spread

Italy is considering closing all its schools and universities in an effort to prevent a further spread of the novel coronavirus, the country’s government said.

The Italian Cabinet was meeting Wednesday to discuss the proposal, as it tries to contain the outbreak that has already killed 79 people there.

“We asked the technical-scientific committee for further information, the decision will come in the next few hours,” the Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina said in a statement.

Some international schools have already issued letters informing parents and guardians they will be closed as a preventative measure as of Thursday, with remote online teaching beginning Friday.

The Italian education ministry has launched a website with information about how to deal with a possible coronavirus outbreak in schools. It also launched an information portal focused on remote learning and said 2,000 teachers participated in webinars on distance learning on Tuesday, the first day of the program.

Italy is experiencing the worst outbreak of the disease in Europe. It has reported more than 2,500 confirmed cases and 79 deaths.

The government has put several cities and towns in the country’s north on lockdown. The measures include banning people from entering or leaving affected areas, suspending public events and closing attractions, such as museums, to the public, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. An estimated 100,000 people are effectively under quarantine.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was forced to admit last week that a hospital in the northern town of Codogno had mishandled the region’s first coronavirus case and had contributed to the deadly virus’ spread.